February 11, 2017
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 334

Genesis 3:9-24
Psalms 90:2, 3-4abc, 5-6, 12-13
Mark 8:1-10

Praying Ordinary Time

World Day of the Sick Message

Reading the first reading and the gospel together hit me in a new way. The Genesis story of the aftermath of the first sin of Adam and Eve, followed by Mark's first version of the feeding of the 4,000, touched me.

The first story reminds us that there is a rebellious part in each of us, which lets ourselves be seduced by an evil desire to be like God. The result is that God has to ask us the question, "Where are you?" [Pope Francis focused on this question in a number of his homilies. See references below.] God knows we are somewhat lost - at least, not at home. The "place" we are in is too often out of sync with who we truly are. We can feel it when we've made choices which compromise our basic sense of who we are. The more we choose independence and isolate ourselves from God's way for us to become inegrated into a relationship with God, with our sisters and brothers, and with our planet, [as Pope Francis outlines in Laudato Si ], we feel "out of sorts." A harmony and communion are missing. We may not know why we are unhappy or angry or feel at odds with so many people, but we know we are not at peace, or "at home." It is like we have been eating junk food - knowing we are cheating our health - yet, we wonder why we don't feel well, feel sluggish and just "off." We consume and try to nourish ourselves on a lot of things, We indulge in all kinds of non-loving behaviors, which don't actually make us happier, which don't build unity, that are toxic to our communion with our God, and don't lead to our being in harmony with ourselves. The result is that sometimes, we don't feel at home with talking with God. We even hide ourselves from God.

In the Gospel there is an incredible contrast. Jesus takes pity on the crowd. He knows that they are starving. He decides to feed them. The disciples turn it into a supply problem: There's not enough. They are with the author of life and they are telling him, "We can't feed this crowd with what we have." When we are isolated and famished for a communion with our God, we can lose hope and say, "You can't feed me. I'm too impatient, or sad, or angry, or busy." Sometimes we even get angry with God, because we blame God for not giving us what we think we want. Jesus just tells them, "Give them what you have." He says, in effect, "I'll make it work. I'll do the feeding. I am the Lord of communion."

Of course, we know the full impact of the story. We know it is Eucharistic in its meaning. At the Eucharist, Jesus is feeding the hungry crowds. Is every parish perfect? Is the music wonderful? Is everyone as welcoming as they might be? Is the homily as nourishing as I'd like? Jesus just says to us, the Church, the People of God, "Give them what you have. I'll make it work. I'll do the feeding. This bread and wine is my body and blood, given for your nourishment and life, for communion with me, for your self-giving love for each other, for those most in need. Be broken and poured out yourselves now, fed by this food." When the Holy Spirit draws us to this table of plentiful good food, our hunger is filled and we are brought home again, refreshed and renewed. When God asks us, "Where are you?" we can answer, "I'm at home. In you. With my family. At home, in the mist of all the sad, broken, divided, messy things of the world, because I'm at home in you. I don't want to be filled with what can never really satisfy me. I want to love and forgive, to be compassionate and generous. I want to be patient and to build bridges. Eating the right food, will give me a peace and a fire that nothing else in the world can offer. If we let it, the Bread of Life is our food for a Mission of communion with Jesus. Let's ask for that grace - one he wants to give us. And, let's be careful what we hunger for and consume.

References to "Adam, Who are you?" in Pope Francis' homilies. Each link is to the whole homily:

Divine Mercy Sunday, April, 2013

Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: "Adam, where are you?" He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: "What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.

Visit to Lampedusa, July, 2013

"Adam, where are you?" This is the first question which God asks man after his sin. "Adam, where are you?" Adam lost his bearings, his place in creation, because he thought he could be powerful, able to control everything, to be God. Harmony was lost; man erred and this error occurs over and over again also in relationships with others. "The other" is no longer a brother or sister to be loved, but simply someone who disturbs my life and my comfort. God asks a second question: "Cain, where is your brother?" The illusion of being powerful, of being as great as God, even of being God himself, leads to a whole series of errors, a chain of death, even to the spilling of a brother’s blood!

God’s two questions echo even today, as forcefully as ever! How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another! And when humanity as a whole loses its bearings, it results in tragedies like the one we have witnessed.

"Where is your brother?" His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, May, 2014

“Adam, where are you?” (cf. Gen 3:9). Where are you, o man? What have you come to? In this place, this memorial of the Shoah, we hear God’s question echo once more: “Adam, where are you?” This question is charged with all the sorrow of a Father who has lost his child. The Father knew the risk of freedom; he knew that his children could be lost… yet perhaps not even the Father could imagine so great a fall, so profound an abyss! Here, before the boundless tragedy of the Holocaust, That cry – “Where are you?” – echoes like a faint voice in an unfathomable abyss…

Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?

Certainly it is not the dust of the earth from which you were made. The dust of the earth is something good, the work of my hands. Certainly it is not the breath of life which I breathed into you. That breath comes from me, and it is something good (cf. Gen 2:7).

No, this abyss is not merely the work of your own hands, your own heart… Who corrupted you? Who disfigured you? Who led you to presume that you are the master of good and evil? Who convinced you that you were god? Not only did you torture and kill your brothers and sisters, but you sacrificed them to yourself, because you made yourself a god.

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