If I’d only known…

It is a well know gospel – the miraculous feeding of the multitudes. St. John estimates the size of the crow as 5,000 counting only the men. The location of the event is somewhere on the shore of the Sea of Galilee on a “mountain” but then the same word can be used for “hillside.” The Christian community still remembered the location and shared it with the 4th century pilgrims. Today, there is the Church of the Multiplications on the traditional site that is maintained and served by Benedictine Monks. It is a site near Capernaum on the north side of the Sea of Galilee (St. Luke says it was in Bethsaida Julias, not too far away where the northern branch of the Jordan enters the Sea).

I recently visited the Church of the Multiplications and would note that it is about 2 miles from Capernaum to the northeast along the lake and about 2 miles from Bethsaida (not Julias) to the southwest also along the lake. I mention this in passing to note that villages were nearby – not that 5,000 people were going to head to the local market for dinner, but so often people imagine this place as a remote wilderness. But is actually quite verdant, on the lake, and with villages nearby.

When I was at the holy site, I was moved to remember a homily from some 30 years ago. The priest proclaimed that there was no miracle as we would understand it, but that the “real miracle” was that the people were inspired by the willingness of the young boy to give up the food that he had brought with him. His example, moved them to open up their satchels and share their food, ensuring everyone was well fed and there were still 12 wicker baskets of left overs. I am sure the priest meant well, was emphasizing the ecclesiological (“things church”) nature of Church as community, and was calling our local community to share with those in need.  All well and truly good, but…. no miracle?

Did you known that this miracle is the only one that is included in all four canonical gospels? (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14). So, yes, the Church is communal in essence – just check out the Acts of the Apostle. Yes, the OT and NT alike call upon us to share with the poor (the orphan, the widow, the alien and the stranger among us). But Scripture says it was a miracle, every Gospel writer includes it in their accounts, so count me in the “it was a miracle” camp. Can I get an “Amen?”

But then there is something about the young man – and his willingness to share.

There is a story told in Kenya about an mchoro (literally a trash person). This old man slept on the streets and scavenged among the trash heaps and dumps to eek out an existence.  Then he would sit with his begging bowl on the streets of Nairobi, dodging the police, and depending on the kindness of strangers.

The word on the street was that the Supreme Chief of his tribe was coming and would pass by his “usual spot” on one of the avenues. The old man knew of the compassion and generosity of the Chief and so ready with his “speech.”  The day grew longer, the sun baked the city, and it was not until late in the day that the chief and his entourage passed by.

The old man gave the prepared speech and asked for help. Instead, the chief, extended his hand and asked the old man to give him something. The old man was surprised, stunned, but the chief is the chief, and when the chief asks…. And so, reluctantly, he reached into his satchel and gave the chief three Kenyan samosas he had received from a stranger. These were half of what would have been his dinner that night. “Asanti sana” (thank you) said the chief and went on his way.

Downcast and forlorn, the man returned to his usual sleeping place on the street. He was hungry, it was late, and time to eat the remaining three samosas. When he reached in, his hand found a samosa – at least shaped like one – only it was hard like a rock. He pulled it out. It was a rock of gold! He put his back in twice more – and retrieved two other rocks of gold.

Then the truth of the matter came to his mind. The three samosas given to the chief had returned to him three rocks of gold. “What a fool I’ve been,” he exclaimed regretfully.  “If only I had known.  I would have given him everything.”

Some 2,000 years ago, there was a young boy who generously gave everything – and from that gift, however small, Jesus worked a miracle that fed the 5,000. Some 2,000 years ago, I wonder if there were 4,999 who thought to themselves, “What a fool I’ve been. If only I had known.  I would have given him everything.”

It’s 2,000 years later. We are a Eucharist people, called to live the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Therefore hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that He who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally.”

And in doing so, Christ will work miracles through your gifts.

Amen

Knowing Jesus: reflection

John 6+crowd+feedingAs noted in the Context section, our verses are followed by the Johannine account of Jesus walking on the water and calming the seas (John 6:16-21). Whereas the miraculous feeding miracle was performed before the crowds, this miracle is with the disciples alone. It is with that context that I offer Gail O’Day’s reflection [597-98]. Continue reading

Knowing Jesus: miracle

John 6+crowd+feedingThe Miracle. 10 Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

One should note that the account indicates there are 5,000 men – so if one assumes women and children present, not an unwarranted assumption, then are a great deal more than 5,000 people present. Continue reading

Knowing Jesus: quiz

John 6+crowd+feedingBefore the Miracle. 5 When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit).” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

The miracle is initiated by Jesus. Just as Jesus initiated contact with the Samaritan woman (4:9) and initiated the healing of the man by the pool (5:6), so also here he anticipates the hunger of the crowd. His question, “Where can we buy enough food?” is a different question from “How can we provide enough food?” Continue reading

Know Jesus: grace and glory

John 6+crowd+feedingThis chapter begins the second major ministry section in John (6:1-10:42). There are similarities to the beginning of the first major ministry section (2:1-5:47). O’Day [591] suggests: “It is probably no accident that the two inaugural miracles involve wine and bread, the sacramental symbols of God’s grace in Jesus.” Both sections start with miracles in Galilee that show God’s abundant grace and Jesus’ divine glory: Continue reading

Know Jesus: context

John 6+crowd+feeding1After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (of Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish feast of Passover was near. 5 When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit).” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. 12 When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” 13 So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. 14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” 15 Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. Continue reading

Knowing Jesus: reflection

John 6+crowd+feedingAs noted in the Context section, our verses are followed by the Johannine account of Jesus walking on the water and calming the seas (John 6:16-21). Whereas the miraculous feeding miracle was performed before the crowds, this miracle is with the disciples alone. It is with that context that I offer Gail O’Day’s reflection [597-98]. Continue reading

Knowing Jesus: miracle

John 6+crowd+feedingThe Miracle. 10 Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

One should note that the account indicates there are 5,000 men – so if one assumes women and children present, not an unwarranted assumption, then are a great deal more than 5,000 people present. Continue reading

Knowing Jesus: quiz

John 6+crowd+feedingBefore the Miracle. 5 When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit).” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

The miracle is initiated by Jesus. Just as Jesus initiated contact with the Samaritan woman (4:9) and initiated the healing of the man by the pool (5:6), so also here he anticipates the hunger of the crowd. His question, “Where can we buy enough food?” is a different question from “How can we provide enough food?” Continue reading

Know Jesus: grace and glory

John 6+crowd+feedingThis chapter begins the second major ministry section in John (6:1-10:42). There are similarities to the beginning of the first major ministry section (2:1-5:47). O’Day [591] suggests: “It is probably no accident that the two inaugural miracles involve wine and bread, the sacramental symbols of God’s grace in Jesus.” Both sections start with miracles in Galilee that show God’s abundant grace and Jesus’ divine glory: Continue reading