Friday, November 4, 2011

The miracle of the Loaves and Fishes continues every single day

The story of the "Loaves and Fishes" is among the most familiar in the New Testament, and we hear it in today's Daily Office reading from Matthew 14:13-21.

Jesus, distraught at the news of the beheading of John the Baptist, attempts to be alone, but the crowd follows him.

Nightfall descends and everyone is hungry, so Jesus tells his disciples to feed the multitudes with what they have: five loaves of bread and two fishes (and if the fish were from the Sea of Galilee, they were very boney, bland and without much meat).

The "Seven Springs" at the Church of
the Heptapegon, where legend
has it Jesus performed
the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
Legend has it that the spot where this occurred is beside a natural spring a few hundred yards from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and a mile or so below a hill where legend has it that Jesus gave his "Sermon on the Mount." Legend has put these place very close together, probably so that medieval pilgrims could reach them.

The area of the Loaves and Fishes now is covered with olive and mango groves, but is a bit off the beaten path of the tour buses. A German Benedictine monastery sits atop the ruins of a fifth century Byzantine church that was built next to the legendary springs which still pour clean cool water into pools.

We had the opportunity to spend three days at this monastery in August, going to Evening Prayer and Compline. I must admit it wasn't until the second day that the significance of the place finally hit me. It took me that long to spot the mosaic sitting in front of an altar, and the design is among the most reproduced in the world.

The story of the Loaves and Fishes is one that modern people have a hard time wrestling with and explaining.

Benedictine monk at the
Church of the Heptapegon
Did more loaves and fishes magically appear? Or did the distribution of the few loaves and fishes inspire the crowds to share what they had with others who had less? What was the miracle exactly, how did it happen? The biblical text doesn't tell us. Does it matter?

We are left with the miracle of Jesus's compassion for the crowds, in one of his lowest moments. The people hunger for his words, his healing touch, and for something solid to eat. They are at their lowest moment, too, and Jesus stays with them, blesses them, and finds a way to feed them in every sense of the word.

It is no wonder we name food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless centers after the Loaves and Fishes all over the country, including here in Charlottesville. Miracle workers are in them every day, touching people, and giving them something to eat. The miracle of the five loaves and two fishes continues every single day. Please keep them in your prayers and consider becoming a miracle worker yourself.

No comments: