Sunday, August 03, 2008

Oh, Brother...

Yes, it's that time again in the liturgical cycle when we talk about the miracle of sharing. You know, when the apostles' reluctant act of sharing five loaves and two fishes encouraged everyone (some 5000+) to share what they had with each other. Then in a renewed spirit of brotherhood, the crowd left and started the first Christian kibbutzim in Israel.

Okay, maybe I made that last part up. Someone else made up the first part, and we got to listen to it along with a plea that we also share. Now, the latter part of the message is fine. We're blessed, and we should help others as we are able. But I wonder if priests who deliver this weak-kneed codswallop realize just how faith-killing such interpretations are? If the multiplication of the loaves is a prefigurement of the Eucharist and is not a miracle but a lesson in how to share, then just what does that say about the Eucharist? Can the Christ who healed, cast out demons, and raise the dead back to life not bring something more from something less?

Marcellino D'Ambrosio gives his impression of the "miracle of sharing" sermon
and adds perhaps a far better inducement to social justice than what we heard today.

It seems the St. Augustine also bought into the miraculous nature of the story.

Here's Steve Ray's take on it, bolstered by the testimony of fathers and doctors of the Church. Okay, he pretty much eviscerates the sharing claim.

I'm fairly certain the Holy father has discussed this interpretation recently, but I can't find it. However, he comes down firmly on the side of "miracle of multiplication" and not "lesson in sharing."

Finally, I have to wonder just how well the priests and theologians who make this claim know the context in which these events took place. They're talking about a culture in which hospitality is a societal norm—where people have historically had to rely on the hospitality of others, and where people consider it a blessing and honor to give hospitality. These people have to be taught to share? While I loathe the term ethnocentric when it's applied to legitimate value judgements among cultures, it's perfectly appropriate when one culture projects its own narcisistic values upon another.

By the way, I was just at Tabgah two weeks ago—the traditional location for the multiplication of the loaves. Here's a photo of the mosaic in front of the altar at the church on that site:

If that image looks familiar, you might've seen it here on the cover of Mike Aquilina's excellent book.
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