Every story explodes more story. Take the example of how a few loaves and a few fishes once wildly burst into a feast of overflowing baskets. I love that story. I love the smile on Jesus’ face as the people are filled. It’s one of the few stories found in all four Gospels.
Thousands of people lounge on the hillside, hungry to hear Jesus’ words of wisdom. For hours, he offers simple, truthful guidance. Like us, the people are starved for authentic truth, for the deepest meaning of what religion has to say. Jesus has holy answers.
Exhausted, first thing Jesus does is sit down. He spends time looking over the crowd. He then shares some of his most insightful parables. When finished, he sees how his nourishment for their souls now calls for another kind of food. So, he tells his disciples, “These people are starving. I am too! What’s for lunch?” Sitting in that crowd, I would have been starving as well.
Remember, we’re looking for a miracle here.
Holding up those five loaves and two fishes, Jesus utters the most beautiful of prayers: “Thank you, Father.” Then he blesses this sparse food, consecrates it, giving it power, rendering it so much more than just another hurried picnic.
Then Jesus delightfully doles out the morsels. More food is on the way; generosity begets generosity. He smiles. In fact, he laughs with this insane, pure joy of giving. All the people laugh too. The wonder of it all.
Can we do something similar? Don’t we always have something for someone under our noses who can use an extra dollar, a meal, a helping hand at just the right time? When we happen to be the one on call, doesn’t it usually end in something like joy?
As if on cue, Jesus hears a child shout: “I’m full!” He toasts his disciples, then directs them: “Okay, collect the leftovers. We can send them over to the next town.” The men collect and continue to collect. Is there no end, they ask themselves? A tiny meal had become a banquet. A miracle!
Well, yes and no. Perhaps it’s better understood as the most ordinary of outcomes in God’s paired down economic order: give to get! And you multiply your giving.
This story reminds me of Leandra J. Carroll, mother of the current famous singer: Jewel. She writes in her book, The Architecture of All Abundance how her own money continues to multiply: “Though it varies from year to year, I challenge myself to disperse up to 60 percent of my income, after taxes, to benefit areas other than my own personal gain, primarily humanitarian endeavors. I am aware this constitutes a radical generosity, yet it seems my income expands exponentially as a result of my commitment.” Leandra smiles at her own miracle of giving, a personal loaves-and-fishes explosion that overflows, an experience too much to bear and must itself be shared in her prosperity book.
Finally, another loaves and fishes story I found yesterday as told by Paulo Coelho in the recent issue of Ode magazine: Abd Mubarak was on his way to Mecca when he dreamed that he was in heaven and heard two angels having a conversation.
“How many pilgrims came to the holy city this year?” one of them asked.
“Six hundred thousand,” said the other.
“And how many of them had their pilgrimage accepted?”
The answer: “None of them. However in Baghdad there’s a shoemaker called Ali Mufiq who didn’t make the pilgrimage, but did have his pilgrimage accepted, and his graces benefited the 600,000 pilgrims.”
When he woke up, Abd Mubarak went to Mufiqu’s shoe shop and told him his dream.
“At great cost and much sacrifice, I finally managed to get 350 coins together,” the shoemaker said in tears. “But when I was ready to go to Mecca, I discovered my neighbors were hungry, so I distributed the money among them and gave up my pilgrimage.”
And now, onto us! Consider our own filled hands, our soul’s capacity for a loaves-and-fishes miracle. Perhaps our coins could be feeding the needs of five thousand. Perhaps our hands could be feeding the world.