Loaves & Fish: Was it a Miracle?

by Steve Ray on April 6, 2008

LoavesandFish.jpgI was furious when the priest said Jesus didn't do a miracle at the multiplication of the loaves — he said Jesus taught everyone to care and share.

Instead of standing up and saying "Excuse me Father!"  — I decided to write — and I did. Hopefully my article will help put that 60's faddish nonsense to sleep once and for all. You would never hear such baloney 30 years ago and you'll never hear it again in thirty years.

Anyway, I wrote the article and it was published in the January 2008 issue of THIS ROCK Magazine. It is now available on-line at Loaves & Fishes, Fashionable Priests and the "Miracle of Sharing."  Have you ever heard this homily? If so, print a copy of this article and give it to the hip homilist.

Tabgha.jpgThe subtitles of the article are:

 1) Was Jesus Unaware?,  2) Where's the Sharing Lesson?,  3) Where did this Teaching come from?,  4) Jesus the New Moses,  5) The Number of Perfections,  6) What is a Miracle?  7) What did the Fathers Teach?,  8) What Do You Believe?,  9) Do You Not Yet Understand?

(Picture to right: Altar built over the rock at the traditional location where Jesus multiplied the Loaves & Fishes – called Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee.)

Here's how my article starts out:

One Sunday I visited a parish in another city and learned something new. The multiplication of loaves didn’t really happen. The greedy people following Jesus in the wilderness had loaves and fishes stuffed up under their robes. The disciples didn’t know about this surplus of hidden food, but this parish priest did!

Although the priest said he was taught in seminary that Jesus kept pulling bread and fish out of the basket, he learned the real truth from the natives in Mexico. They taught him that the Gospel writers misunderstood what really happened. What really happened is that Jesus preached to the crowd about caring and sharing and they responded by bringing out food from under their robes that they had been hiding from each other. Once everyone learned how to share, there was plenty for everyone with twelve basketfuls left over.

The story was told with great humor and passion, but the denial of the miraculous and the undermining of the clear intent of Scripture was accomplished nonetheless. And in the course of telling a good story, the priest actually placed the onus of this false teaching in the laps of the poor people in Mexico.

For the whole article, click here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew Hysell April 6, 2008 at 5:43 PM

Dear Mr Ray,

This isn’t “60s faddish nonsense.” This is the minimal education required of our clergy, a M.Div. that all seminaries offer, which is scarecely more than a Mickey Mouse club for theologians.

As a former seminarian, I must admit with great sadness that, despite some of the good professors that teach in our seminaries, most seminarians see themselves not as teachers of the faith but sacramental vending-machines. I know, for instance, what materials are used at a major seminary on the West Coast in its course on the Trinity, and I’m telling you, these graduates won’t have enough information to teach a high school religion course, let alone adult catechumenate. And Catholic schools require at least an M.Div. to teach its religion curriculum!

It’s time to dump the M.Div. and expect a better education for our clergy-to-be, or at least expect more from existing academic formation. The intellectual culture in our seminaries and houses of formation is what feeds such “60s faddish nonsense.” And it itsn’t going away anytime soon.

Matthew Hysell, M.A., M.Th. (Cand.)

Kelly April 6, 2008 at 8:07 PM

I heard a more subtle version of this homily. The priest told a story about a bus that broke down in Mexico, and when the driver asked if anyone had any food, only a boy offered a bag of chips. But as they passed it around, more people brought out their food, and in the end, everyone had plenty to eat.

I was in middle school when I heard the homily, so I didn’t quite get the undermining that the priest was trying to do. I do remember having the thought, “Hey, I wonder if something similar happened with Jesus?”

Larry Bast April 6, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Check out Catholic Replies 2. It has an answer to this question on page 20.

JimC April 7, 2008 at 3:03 PM

I like Father Benedict Groeschel’s way of handling this sharing nonsense also. He said you should walk up to the priest and simply ask something like, “Father how do you Jesus did not perform a miracle? Were you there?

Carl Eppig April 7, 2008 at 4:48 PM

Yes, I’ve heard that one before. It was ten or twelve years ago and the homolist was a retired priest from New Hampshire who chose to live with some kind of group in Maine. When he came to replace our paster up there on certain Sundays, we learned to listen for the words, “Some people think.” This meant, we found, “I think!” It was the signal to go click.

Carl Eppig, Middleton, NH

john April 7, 2008 at 10:49 PM

This fable is also presented in the movie “Millions” and is told to a young boy by St. Peter.

MissJean April 8, 2008 at 11:38 AM

Living as I do in Michigan, I have heard it from Chaldeans that the “sharing” interpretation is insulting. In the Middle East, food is shared with strangers. It isn’t hidden, even if it means that the family that gives food goes without.

I would suggest that the priest in Mexico should have explained this difference in culture to his stingy parishioners. :)

Robert Ornberg April 8, 2008 at 9:25 PM

At a Mass this past week the priest suggested “the everyone shared what they had” version in his homily. As a convert (1997) I had never heard this before; It was disappointing, to put it mildly.

Steve April 10, 2008 at 4:31 PM

The sharing version was what I heard in my former UCC church before I came home to the RCC church this year.

ariel abel February 18, 2014 at 7:09 AM

Couldn’rt resist commenting on the apparent dichotomy between miracles and human generosity. With the amount of greed in the world, the greatest miracle would be that everybody cared to share by pulling out the proverbial bread and fish from under their garments. As a pastor and congregational leader, I can understand the priest. It may have been naughty of him to derobe the story of the traditional mystery, but in so doing he replaced it with a true and desperately needed miracle – turning heart of stone to hearts of flesh.

STEVE RAY HERE: We all agree that a miracle of generosity would be wonderful but let’t not twist Scripture like a rubber nose to create a miracle intranet to the text.

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