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Today’s Reading: Mark 8:1-21

1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat;3 and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate, and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. 10 And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side.

14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.” 17 And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Today’s Commentary:

A sign from heaven: Jesus refuses to perform miracles on demand, especially not for Pharisees who are plotting to destroy him (3:6). They are like the Israelites in the wilderness who refused to believe in God, even after seeing numerous signs in Egypt.

Jesus rehearses the figures: In both miracles of the loaves (6:35-44; 8:1-10). While the symbolism of these numbers is nowhere made explicit, they most likely signify the nations who hear the gospel. The twelve (8:19) leftover baskets from the first episode represent the twelve tribes of Israel that Jesus gathers into the Church (Mt 15:2419:28). The seven (8:20) baskets of the second miracle represent the seven Gentile nations who once occupied the land of Canaan alongside Israel (Deut 7:1) and to whom Christ subsequently offers salvation. Jesus’ previous conversation with the Syrophoenician (Canaanite) woman in 7:24-30 already established the point that Israel’s leftover bread would be given to Gentiles. Together these figures point to the international dimensions of the New Covenant.

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