The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden to ‘till the earth’ as seen in the First Reading (cf. Gen 3:9-24) negates the veracity of the tempter’s assurance that ‘they will not die’ if they eat the forbidden fruit. By disobeying God, they deprived themselves of ‘paradise’ and had to embrace hardship (and consequently, death) in a ‘deserted land’ outside the garden. The dangers a ‘desert’ presents to human survival can be a warning of what life becomes when God is evicted from our lives by our sins. Thus, outside the garden, Adam and Eve had to live a kind of life that was a shadow of the plenitude of life inside the garden where they enjoyed intimate communion with God. Nevertheless, ‘God’s anger does not last forever’; for He is the ‘refuge of mankind from one generation to the next’ (see Resp. Psalm 89(90):2-6,12-13). Thus, as a good Shepherd, He always goes after the wandering man in the wilderness (desert) and offering him refuge. Little wonder in Deuteronomy 32:10, God is said to have found his people in the desert: “He found them in a wilderness, in fearful, desolate wastes; He surrounded him, lifted him up, He kept him as the apple of his eyes”.
This compassionate attribute of God was also reflected by Jesus in the Gospel Reading (cf. Mark 8:1-10), who was sensitive to the needs of the people in the desert and out of compassion, fed them by multiplying seven loaves and few fishes. We recall that earlier in Mark 6:34-46, Jesus had already fed five thousand Jews; however, in today’s gospel, he feeds the pagans. This shows that his redemptive work extends to all peoples.
In the Holy Eucharist, Christ in His compassion and love continues to feed and nourish our ‘poor and hungry’ souls (spiritually) with his Body and Blood. As partakers in the Holy Eucharist, we are called to be compassionate with the poor and needy, always sharing and utilizing our resources for the good of others, and trusting in God’s divine providence in difficult situations.
©Rev. Fr. Chinaka J. Mbaeri, OSJ