We can observe two movements of Jesus going out to serve others in today’s Gospel. The first is evident in the beginning verse: “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34). Jesus witnessed their deeper, spiritual hunger. The crowd gathered around Jesus for they were hungry, yet they were not even aware of the depth of their hunger.
Surely, they heard the accounts of Jesus preaching with authority, his healings, and exorcisms. They wondered if he could be the Messiah, the one who had been promised, present now in their midst. Yet, for the vast number of them, if not all gathered, they sought a leader, that Jesus was not. He was not to be a mighty military leader, he would not train his followers in guerilla warfare, and Jesus would not conquer the Roman occupation with might.
After his teaching, the time grew late and he and his disciples were aware of the hunger of the crowd. The disciples only saw the five loaves and two fish that were present, barely if enough to feed the Twelve, let alone the vast multitude. Their first instinct was to send them on their way such that they could fend for themselves. Jesus, who knew the Father, knew there were no limitations to his providential care. Jesus: Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to [his] disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all (Mk 6:41).
Jesus shepherded and provided nourishment for five thousand men, so if that number was not including women and children, the number could have been easily doubled, and all ate and were satisfied (Mk 6:42). Jesus was aware of their deepest needs and provided for them. Jesus knew their spiritual hunger as well as their physical hunger, better than those who came to listen to him.
Are we so different today? We think we know what we need, but how many times are they really wants, apparent goods, and/or substitutes for what we truly hunger for deep down? We continually strive to be autonomous, self-sufficient, able to control and govern our own affairs. We witness this when the disciples wanted to send off the people to get their own food, and they would deal with the meager amount they had. Yet, this is counter to who we have been created to be.
Jesus showed his disciples time and again the way of God was not self-sufficiency, but self-surrender. They were and we are to place our complete trust in and reliance on God. We are to allow ourselves to be loved by God and so love others in return. This is not an emotion but an act of the will, of being aware of another in their time of need. We are to expand beyond ourselves, be present, and allow God to happen through us. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). May we turn our heart and mind to God daily so to receive and savor his love, so to be moved with compassion, to love, and to serve him in one another in turn.