12Feb Saturday of Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Gen 3:9ff. The Lord sentences the serpent, and Adam and Eve, who are expelled from the garden.

Mark 8:1ff. Jesus, out of compassion for hungry people, multiplies bread and fish for about four thousand people.

Sentenced and Reprieved

In Genesis we have heard how our first parents are condemned to return to the ground from which you were taken. The gospel seems to reverse this, on a different, more optimistic note. The men and women who came out into the desert to hear him are so tired and hungry that if Jesus sends them away without food, “they will collapse on the way.” Therefore he multiplies bread and fish, and they all return not to the earth but to their homes with renewed vigor. In the beginning Adam and Eve ate the forbidden food and die; in the gospel their children eat the heavenly food and live.

The difference between orientation towards life or death lies within ourselves and our motives for acting. Earth itself is not evil, since it provides God with the material for moulding man and woman, and produces the bread and the fish, that Jesus gives as food of new life for the people. The ways that lead to death can entrap us exclusively either in the secular world or in the religious realm. In Genesis we find man and woman giving themselves wholly to secular values. Driven by pride, desire to master the world and by an overweening ambition to control all things, man and woman sinned, falling into the typical sin of secular society. In the Book of Kings, the way to death comes through misuse of the religious realm. Jeroboam uses the instruments of religion, the priesthood, sanctuaries and feastdays to control the riches of the northern kingdom and to prevent peace and reunion with the south. By envy he kept north and south, which both professed the same religion, at each other’s throat.

The orientation towards life or death is not “out there” but inside ourselves, in how we react to God and to share with others as God has shared, indifferent to personal ambition. It is amazing how quickly and simply today’s gospel text ends. After the magnificent miracle of feeding “about four thousand” from seven loaves of bread and a few small fishes, the story ends abruptly. He dismissed them and got into the boat with his disciples to go to the neighbourhood of Dalmanutha. Acting out of compassion, not ambition, Jesus did not make a living from miracles. The happiness of seeing others restored to life and strength was its own joy.

First Reading: Genesis 3:9-24

But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Gospel: Mark 8:1-10

In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way – and some of them have come from a great distance.” His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his discipls and went to the district of Dalmanutha.