November 4, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is from Mark 6:35-44.
By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. 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. They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate [of the loaves] were five thousand men.
Usually when I read this story, which appears in all the gospels and the only miracle to appear in them all, I think of a talk I heard years ago about how the miracle was really about inducing people to share what they had brought with them for the journey. It’s certainly plausible and would be a sign of the kingdom of God that we can co-create.
There is something in me that wants to turn this miracle into something else, something that makes sense. Miracles don’t make sense. I think this is a story of God’s abundant love for us. Jesus uses this event as an opportunity to show us the great messianic banquet that God provides us with Jesus at the head of the table. Can you imagine 5,000 men plus women and children sitting in orderly rows quietly and waiting for food? Then they ate all they needed and still there was excess bread and fish to be gathered up in baskets. He was showing us that the kingdom of God was not in heaven, not far off in the distant future. It was right then and there. God’s abundant providence and nourishment available to us every day.
Every time I think of God’s boundless, unconditional love for me I’m struck that it is a miracle. I can’t understand it in any other way. This story helps me in my need to understand.
It also helps me think about my attitude and behavior when I am tired and hungry and just want to be left alone like the disciples in this story. Like them, I just want to take care of my own needs and let everyone else take care of theirs. However, they did as Jesus bade them and look what happened! It’s a story also about placing myself in Jesus’ hands, doing his bidding, trusting in his generosity. If I am willing, he will use me; he will make me a participant in his miracles. He will use me to assure that there is an abundance for all of us to share. Overcoming my preoccupation with my own needs and desires is no small miracle! The rewards are great, though, if I will but trust him and follow his guidance, if I will allow him to shepherd me.