Monday, June 11, 2007

The Multiplication of the Loaves

Catholics are not really known for being Biblical scholars but I am gonna go out on a ledge here and say most of you can follow me if I ask you to recall the story about Jesus going to a town called Bethsaida where a crowd of 5,000 follows him. He speaks with them, heals them, and at the end of the day, the Apostles come, asking Jesus to send them away so they might find food, as they are growing hungry. “Feed them” Jesus instructs. To which the Apostles reply, “but we have only 5 loaves of bread and two fish.” Remember it? Here’s a hint, it was the Gospel reading on Sunday, Luke chapter 9, verses 11-17.

The multiplication of the loaves, it is often referred to as. And like the falsehood that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, this important story of the Bible is so often misread, and misinterpreted.

If you read the passage yourself, you will come to see, like I was taught a couple years ago, that no where in the Gospel does it mention a multiplication of anything. It only says they sat and they shared what they had and left full. The Peasants of Solentiname note that “The miracle was to persuade the owners of the bread to share it, that it was absurd for them to keep it all while the people were going hungry.”

I was blessed to hear a wonderful homily yesterday to remind me about the powerful truth behind this Gospel message. I often wonder why I grew up, never having this truth revealed to me. Perhaps it was too much a temptation towards liberation theology for the mainstream Church, to emphasize not only charity, but solidarity. To share a penny if a penny is all you have.

The priest in my poor parish yesterday tried to imagine the story in our own context. Perhaps, he said, the people came together and pulled out their empanadas or what other little food they had, and together experienced the blessed and broken bread of Christ in ways we might struggle to imagine. It was a powerful idea to fill the Church hall with that day.

I just finished a book called Blood Brothers the other day. It deals with Iraqi veterans, amputated in the war, who come back to rebuild their lives. And it mentioned how everyday, one of the men had a tradition on his way to work to buy a coffee and sandwich for a homeless man he would see day after day. The symbolism is so powerful. It’s the idea that each of us has an obligation when our car stops under that underpass or we walk by the man in the shaggy clothes shaking a cup of change, to help. I came across this quote below while reading about Dorothy Day, an ordinary woman whose ordinary vision has created inspiration for millions of Catholics like myself. It gets to the true multiplication of the bread: us.

“Bread and truth, truth and bread, making the rounds. Today’s food would yield short of death (the death of the soul), to tomorrow’s hunger; the task would never end. But let tomorrow take care of itself; it was today’s hunger that must be met. Let us meet it. Let us multiply ourselves, in the youth, the workers, the poor, the street people, the excluded. All have the truth to offer; all can multiply bread, bake it, break it, pass it on.” Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

No comments: