Leftovers

Many St Blog’s Catholics were preparing to duck, or plug in the headphones during yesterday’s homily, in case it touched on the so-called “miracle of sharing.” If this theme is anywhere near as common as reported, perhaps it rivals another tiresome notion–that the criticism of this citation from an older preacher is itself exhausting in its commonality.

The Saturday homilist at my parish preached more on the leftovers. So there’s that. I don’t think I’ve heard a miracle-of-sharing homily since my college days.

All that said, I’m not sure the concept of a miracle of sharing is rooted in laziness any more than other cultural images are: Santa kneeling at the manger, taking a nail home for Lent, weaving palms into crosses, a wedding is three people, etc..

Familiarity can be a virtue. Personally, I might wish for something more than a 30th funeral appearance of a song this year. But for the newly grieving, it may have a context beyond my assessment of being a leftover from last week’s funerals.

It’s also important to note that a miracle-of-sharing homily is pretty close to the fable of Stone Soup, and for kids and even the occasional adult, it can be a familiar touchstone for the concept of eliciting generosity from the selfishly disinclined. I would certainly expect my conservative Catholic friends to advocate for the elimination of a vice.

On the other hand, maybe so many Catholic preachers have a sense that generosity is not a strong virtue in their parishes. Reinforcing it with an old story about sharing is an easy out for a warm and leisurely summer–when it seems to come up most often.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Leftovers

  1. Liam says:

    Our preacher yesterday cannot but help shoe-horn the “sharing and caring” interpretation into his homily any time there’s a multiplication of loaves pericope – moreover, it’s *invariably* preceded by a fairly pungent *caricature* of a miraculous understanding (several years running). The thing is that John 6 is not only bereft of any basis for the S&C interpretation, but vv 14 & 15 negate it. The miracle is the only one (other than the Resurrection) that appears in all four Gospels, and in John 6 it’s a powerful setup to the Bread of Life discourse and confrontation (which we will hear in the coming Sundays this year).

    Also, the pericope is preceded by the account of Elisha’s wonder-working (and that is clearly wonder-working, as that was one of Elisha’s claims to prophetic fame, even curing people as a corpse himself!).

    It’s also *unnecessary*. You don’t need to de-mystify this pericope in any way to get to the point of sharing, precisely because of the leftovers verse, among other reasons.

    My strong sense is that my preacher (in the context of years of observing his homiletic practice) resorts to this interpretation* this for self-serving reasons: to establish his cred with people he assumes would scoff at a mystical explanation.

    * Which, as best i can tell, may have come from the 1942 novel, The Robe, later made into an early vehicle for Richard Burton, and later was taken up in a MUCH more nuanced way by the Kirk theologian William Barlcay who as a general matter was inclined to offer parallel preternatural or natural explanations for a number of scriptural miracles.

  2. Liam says:

    PS: I strongly object to the crushing out of the mystical understanding of the Scriptures because, frankly, once discipleship is reduced to a merely ethical framework, there’s really no point in Being Church, because we’re just Doing Churchy Things. Might as well shut down and distribute the assets, as it were. (Let you be tempted to remind me of Matthew 25, I am not saying that Doing is incidental, but reinforcing the understanding that Matthew 25 doesn’t exist in superior isolation.)

  3. Chris says:

    In preaching at an interfaith service, I pretty much went with what Liam said above. Both a miracle and a sharing. We don’t have to counterpose the two. Our Popes have taught that the Eucharist cannot be separated from active concern for the hungry and action to feed them.

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