Sharing Hysteria

Over the years, many Catholic bloggers have gone gah-gah over preachers who utilized one of the proclamations of Jesus feeding the multitudes to preach on what a miracle the sharing of loaves and fish might have been.

Applying some reverse snark, maybe there was some proto-capitalist in the five thousand who thought, “This dude is producing some serious quantity of baked goods and piscine protein. We should set up shop here in this lonely place.” No wonder those baskets full were on the next day’s clearance sale. And no wonder it was such a miracle that people got fed before hoarding-for-profit went into effect.

Taken as an isolated incident, I don’t have a problem with preaching on a miracle of sharing. Given the level of self-interest among human beings, it might be a miracle worthy of four gospels in some quarters. I certainly know I’ve seen it complained about far more often than I’ve heard it live. I tend to tune it out like criticisms of hated liturgical songs.

Personally, this strikes me as a better homily, and a superior metaphor for grace: God can take very meager resources–including our own selves–and make something substantial of it. I need to hear that preached often enough. Thank heaven my wife pounds my stubborn brain with that notion. Sometimes more than once a day.

The problems connected with this reading on both sides of the commentary follow:

  • People who promote the miracle of multiplication might place too much emphasis on the supernatural, if not the magic moment. The point of attending carefully at Mass is not what happens to ordinary bread, but how ordinary people are transformed into active disciples. It’s not about Jesus as spectator sport. It’s about acting like him.
  • People who are satisfied with a casual reading of William Barclay or Stone Soup might actually consider widening their horizons to note how God’s grace works in mighty wonderful ways. Including the inside of people’s brains when they become converts.
  • Preachers who repeat either homily on sharing or miracle might want to put a lid on that theme, whichever it is. Find some new insight to startle or surprise people who have already heard your homily once and may not need to tune out as you preach it again.

That said, if there are any listeners out there with a story to share from yesterday’s homily, I’m all ears. But not twelve baskets’ worth.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Sharing Hysteria

  1. Liam says:

    My only quibble is your verbs are mashed up. People don’t promote the miracle of multiplication, but they may be satisfied with it in a way that leaves the seed of discipleship inert. And I’ve definitely witness active promotion of the sharing interpretation to the express denigration of the miraculous, almost always accompanied by scornful gestures. Mercifully, I avoided my usual source of that latter experience on Sunday and witnessed an excellent homily on God’s generosity that’s a inspiration and food (if not a literal model) for us in responding to God and to our neighbors. It’s interesting that the accounts in Luke and John are followed immediately by a reaction that indicates something other than sharing happened: in Luke, we get the confession of Peter, and in John, the crowds want to make Jesus king.

    • Liam says:

      PS: The origin of the sharing and caring interpretation was in the 1942 novel of Lloyd Davis, The Robe, and carried over into the blockbuster movie starring Richard Burton.

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