|"Sharing is good"|
This morning, Pope Francis claimed that the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was really about sharing. This was at least the fourth time he's publicly made this claim as Pope, and only God knows how often he did so as bishop or mere priest.
“He shows them that the few loaves and fishes they have, with the power of faith and of prayer, can be shared by all the people,” the Pope said. “It is a miracle that he does, but it is the miracle of faith, of prayer with compassion and love.”
“Jesus wishes to withdraw and pray, but seeing the multitudes, is moved by compassion and chooses to remain with them. By instructing his disciples to feed the crowd, he teaches them to have faith and invites them to share in his concern for those in need,” he continued. “The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a concrete sign of that merciful concern.”In other words, it's not really a miracle. Rather it shows that Jesus cared and (it follows) we should care too.
Francis is denying that the miracle, in the sense that we usually understand the meaning of the term "miracle," ever happened.
As all of you know, the story - which occurs six times in the Gospels - is that Jesus miraculously multiplied a few loaves and fishes to feed thousands. It's the second most famous miracle in the New Testament - the only miracle outside of the Resurrection to be recorded in all four Gospels.
Why is it a miracle? Well, this is obvious to any five-year-old. A few loaves and fish cannot feed thousands, no matter how you divide or distribute them and no matter how much anyone cares. Jesus - because He had miraculous powers - simply created more loaves and fish ex nihilo. Poof! It was magic, or sort of magic. Christians don't usually like that that term because it implies there might be something occult or tricky going on. But, in common sense language, magic gets it mostly right. If you prefer, substitute the term supernatural.
The common-sense understanding of the significance of the miracle was that this was a sign that Jesus was a special man, or more than just a man (at the time of the miracle, no one, or almost no one, understood that Jesus was in fact God). That there would be and were such signs, is alluded to many times in the Bible. The Christian Fathers unanimously understood the miracle in this way.
Now, there are reasons why the sign had the characteristics that it had - why Jesus on this occasion created food out of nothing. Why did He perform this miracle instead of, say, levitating over the crowd or disappearing in a cloud of smoke or whatever?
There are two answers, I think. The first is that it recalled Moses calling manna from Heaven. In the Old Testament, Moses caused or participated in a similar miracle. If Jesus was special, he should at least be able to do what Moses did. This sign showed that Jesus was the new Moses, or, as it would of course be later revealed, much more than Moses.
The second is that all of the miracles of Jesus were not merely arbitrary marvels, but were also symbols or representations of what God does for us as a matter of course. We don't usually see bread and seafood appearing out of nowhere. But God feeds us "normal" food every day, and He gives us the bread of life at communion. Even the Resurrection is a miracle of this kind. We don't usually see dead people getting up and walking (except in movies) but, if certain conditions hold, God will in the end resurrect us and give us eternal life.
For Pope Francis, the "miracle" was really Jesus teaching us about sharing.
Pardon me for saying so, but that would make Christianity the stupidest religion ever. I don't (pardon me, again) need some Jewish hippy from 2,000 years ago telling me that sharing is a lovely thing. And neither do you. Both of us knew that moral principle already. Try evangelizing an atheist by saying, look, there was this guy in the first century who said sharing was good. Be prepared to die for Him as a martyr. The atheist would (rightly) look at you as if you were crazy.
We might call this the Faber University version of Christianity:
Sharing is Good.Now, obviously, I don't think Jesus was merely a Jewish hippy. No true Christian does. But Pope Francis seems to think so. There are no miracles, only teachings. And they're pretty obvious teachings. Sharing is good.
And Francis is the man, 2,000 years later to remind us of that fact. Just think, we used to think Christianity was all about anathemas.
As far as I could tell, no Catholic bloggers (at least the ones on my feed) cited this latest howler. That's not to fault them. Far from it. It's rather, evidence that no one is surprised anymore. The Pope denies another fundamental element of the Catholic faith and makes Christianity dull. Ho hum. What else is new?
I almost didn't write this, for the same reason that other Catholic bloggers didn't write about it. It's not news. It's boring.
The enigmatic Bishop Barron has written that our faith in Christ should set us on fire. Forget, for the moment, the claims that Francis is an anti-Pope or a proto-anti-Christ or (as I have said) the most dangerous man from the point of view of the health of the Catholic Church alive today.
Think of him rather as that awful third-grade teacher that you had. He could make anything boring and unappealing. Vikings are cool and exciting. But you'll always hate vikings because you can't get the memory out of your head of Mr. Milquetoast droning on and on about them.
And when you nodded off or wrote notes to your friends in class, Mr. Milquetoast reprimanded you for not paying attention to his tedious monologue. It's your fault, you see. No one else taught the vikings correctly. He is finally doing so. That you are snoring or throwing spitballs during his lecture shows that you are unappreciative.
Francis doesn't help to set you on fire. He puts you to sleep.
God (and His Son) is the most fascinating subject there is. Read the Gospels, They are a window on the most amazing thing that ever happened.
Once, God walked among us as a man.
And if you follow Him, you can live with Him forever.
Don't listen to Francis - he'll ruin it for you.