The multiplication of loaves is the most prominent miracle of Jesus' earthly ministry. It is the only miracle--other than his Resurrection--mentioned in all four gospels.

This even ranks the raising of Lazarus.

But despite this, we're subjected to countless homilies in which the priest seems bent on explaining away this grand miracle, in which Jesus fed 5,000 men (plus women and children) with just five loaves and two fish. Instead, we're told, it was just a "miracle of sharing" whereby Jesus encouraged people to share the food they had in secret selfish stashes.

I've written about it before, including comments from Pope Benedict and John Paul II, but here's the final, crushing, humiliating death-blow to the idea . . .


St. John Speaks

Let's look at the way the miracle is described in John 6. Here's how it goes:

[1] After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiber'i-as. [2] And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. [3] Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. [4] Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. [5] Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" [6] This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. [7] Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."

Now enter the boy with the five loaves and two fish (note that we get the added detail that they're barley loaves):

[8] One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, [9] "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?"

So Jesus performs the miracle:

[10] Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. [11] Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

Got that?

Jesus distributed the loaves and the fish and people got as much as they wanted.

Since the whole point of this is that the people didn't want 1/1,000th of a loaf or 1/2,500th of a fish for their family to feed on, for Jesus to give them "as much as they wanted," he would need to multiply the amount of food (by, say, a couple thousand times).

So simply treating the text on its own terms points to a miraculous multiplication, not getting people to share. That just not the way the sentences are structured.

But we're not done yet . . .


Here Comes the Coup de Grace

The final, FINAL death-blow comes in the aftermath of the event:

[12] And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." [13] So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

Note that St. John identifies the source of the fragments. They weren't fragments from stuff people had in their secret stashes. They were fragments from the five barley loaves.

John isn't leaving us any rationalistic wiggle room here. This was a miracle, and he means us to know it.

Also note that the "fragments from the five barley loaves" filled twelve baskets.

The only way five barley loaves could produce twelve baskets worth of fragments would be if they were of brobdingnagian size (which they weren't) or if the amount of material had been multiplied.

So again, no rationalistic wiggle room.

Abandon all hope, ye who would seek to explain this away.

Look on His works, ye mighty of cleverness, and despair.


A Question of Faith

Of course, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

And so, though the miracle of free will, a person can still cling to the miracle of sharing nonsense.

But at what a cost!

You basically have to say that the Gospel of John is wrong.

Or you have to come up with some even more contorted rationalization to square the alleged historical basis of the story (Jesus prompted people to share their food) with the fact that the text presents this as a miracle--and not a miracle in the remote past but something that people who were then living had actually seen.

That is, frankly, implausible.


The Miracle of the Eucharist

It's understandable that a non-believer would dismiss what the Gospel of John says, just as a non-believer might be expected to dismiss anything the Bible says. But why would the people who preach homilies--Catholic priests and deacons--do so?

After all, the feeding of the five thousand is directly and, explicitly in John 6, oriented toward the Eucharist.

After feeding the multitude miraculously, Jesus goes on to tell of another, related miracle he will perform: Enabling us to consume his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

The latter miracle is hidden in that it doesn't disrupt the apparent operation of nature the way that the multiplication of loaves did.

The multiplication of loaves is a manifest miracle. The Eucharist is a hidden miracle.

And Jesus is, as it were, offering us the manifest miracle as proof of the fact that he is able to perform the hidden one. (Just as he miraculously healed the paralytic--another manifest miracle--in order to prove his authority to forgive the man's sins--another hidden miracle; Matt. 9:1-8.)

If a priest or deacon believes in the Eucharistic miracle, why should he have trouble with the idea of Jesus performing the multiplication of loaves?

But then, people people didn't believe Jesus about the Eucharistic miracle even after the multiplication of loaves, leading to one of the saddest (and ill-omened) verses in the Bible, John 6:66:

After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

Let's pray for our priests and deacons.

What do you think?


By the Way . . .

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