When I was growing up, a priest gave a sermon on this particular miracle event we have in our Gospel reading today. The gist of that sermon was that the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 was not some abbra-cadabbra moment but something for more important. The miracle was that Jesus got all those people to sit down in small groups and share. This priest talked about how it was customary for people, in that time and place, to have little pouches (in today's parlance a fanny-pack) in which they carried pieces of dried fish and dried bread. By having all those people sit down in small groups and open up their fanny-packs and pull out their food and offer it to their neighbors, who they did not know, this the priest said was the miracle. An opening of their hearts, one to the other, recognizing the need of your neighbor sitting right next them. Not only recognizing that need but doing something about it.
This burst my child's imaginative understanding of this story, and I remember leaving somewhat disillusioned and ill-at-ease (although as a child I probably would have said "I was feeling yucky".) Yet that sermon and explanation of this miracle story has always stayed with me, has always come back to me whenever I read one of the versions of the feeding of the 5000.
Aren't Jesus' parables supposed to make us uneasy? Aren't they supposed to put us on edge? Aren't they supposed to make us feel like we are perilously balancing ourselves on the abyss of self-understanding and responsibility, not only for our own actions but for those around us? Are we ready to trust what will happen if we allow that abyss to be our world?
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.