Monday, August 05, 2002

Yesterday's Gospel was Matthew's version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes miracle. Predictably, some priests proposed a "miracle of sharing" explanation for it, and just as predictably, this brought about shouts of heresy and other ills in orthodox blog land.

I've never had such a big problem with this interpretation, perhaps because when I heard this, it was suggested as a possibility, and the priest made it clear that of course Jesus could have miraculously produced boxcars full of loaves and fishes; this was just another way of thinking about it.

I found this quote from Rod Dreher on Amy Welborn's site especially telling:

. .....we are in the middle of a war for the survival of the Church. The lack of fidelity is the root cause for all our woes. Souls are at stake. So when I sit in the pew after all that's happened this year, desperate for some sign of faith and moral courage in the priest, and all I hear is some jolly fellow denying Biblical miracles, I feel like I'm listening to a commanding officer commit treason. It's disgusting, and I cannot abide it.

Oh, for crying out loud, can we do away with the hyperbole, please?

First of all, the root cause for all our woes is priests who sexually abused children. Period. I am sick and tired of people pointing to things they don't like about the Church and declaring them the "root cause" of the current scandals. Until we hear an abusing priest say, "Well, I heard a homily that the miracle of the loaves and fishes was really a 'miracle of sharing,' so I figured all bets were off," let's lay off this "root cause" BS. The current scandals were not caused by Marty Haugen music, processional banners, gender-inclusive language, celibacy, the all-male priesthood, standing during the Eucharistic prayer, nuns not wearing full habits, incense, Latin masses, light penances, or denying the Eucharist to re-married divorcees. I find it interesting that this "root cause" BS is embraced by many of the same people who laugh off "root cause" explanations for Arab violence against the US. The current scandals were caused by abusing priests, and bishops' failure to effectively deal with them, not by those who oppose you on your pet issue.

Secondly, is our faith so weak that this is such a damaging possibility? Exactly who's soul will not be saved for believing in a miracle of sharing than a miracle of sudden appearance? Why is this so threatening?

Sometimes I think "orthodoxy" (when used in this self-congratulatory tone to bully others, not as simple faithfulness to the Church) is a cover for a weak faith. I don't really trust in God as the Author of History, and the Holy Spirit's presence among us, so I'll just commit to what the Church says right now, and cling to that for dear life.

I've got news for you -- I think it's a pretty safe bet that we're going to realize that the Church is significantly wrong about something within the next 50 years, if history is a guide. I have no idea what that will be. Maybe it's homosexual marriage; maybe it's Mass in the vernacular. I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that something we're doing today is going to look foolish to our grandchildren.

What will we do then? Will we bury our heads and deny this Truth that has been revealed to us, because it's not what we've committed ourselves to? Will we conclude that because the Church was wrong about this, then the Church cannot be trusted about anything? Or will we embrace what we've learned, and accept it as a gift of the Holy Spirit that remains with us, as Jesus had promised.

Back to the loaves and fishes -- If anything, this possibility speaks to me about an even greater power of God. It requires simple force to create boxcars full of food. It requires greater power to turn thousands of hearts. Sometimes I wonder if another reason that people dislike this interpretation so much is that we resist this call to greater generosity. Remember, Jesus said the first think we will be confronted with when we are judged is whether or not we fed the hungry.

Anyway, historical information casts severe doubts on this interpretation, and I'm not here to defend it as historical truth. What I do think is worth examining is why this interpretation is so threatening to people. What would it mean if someone could factually verify that it was in fact a miracle of sharing? Would that change what we believe in?
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