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A Reflection for Friday of the Second Week of Easter

Find today’s readings here.

"Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"

The story in today’s Gospel is known by several names: “The multiplication of the loaves,” “the feeding of the five thousand” and sometimes “the feeding of the multitudes.” This event was so memorable that it was retold in all four Gospels, leading biblical scholars to conclude that there seems to be an ancient memory of an actual historical event with a very big crowd of people following Jesus who then shared food together near the Sea of Galilee.

As people who live in a world with science, you and I may often skip Gospel stories like this because (as biblical scholars point out) the kinds of proofs of historicity we need are simply not there. But I wonder if, given our own times, we might recover the miraculous quality of this story. After all, what is a miracle? Is it only something that breaks with the laws of nature, or is it something that allows us to see and live into reality in a new way? As a Latina Catholic I would say… maybe both. We are of course profoundly surprised and overjoyed when a very sick person makes a miraculous recovery. But we should also remain awake and watchful for the “signs” that appear in the course of everyday life, what we call “lo cotidiano.”

I think of one evening I spent walking in a touristy part of my city with friends and coming upon police interrogating flower-sellers. They were immigrants, lacking English and permits, and they were about to be in very serious trouble. My friends and I had no time to come up with a plan; it just seemed to flow out of us. While one of us tried to translate and asked the police what these people carrying armfuls of roses had done wrong to be stopped, another of us talked with one of the frightened women holding the flowers. We quickly found out the price for the roses and turned to the others to pool together all we had (which, blessedly, was much more than enough). By the time the police turned their attention back to dealing with the women, the roses were in our arms, money was out of sight (in the sellers’ pockets) and there was no violation. Nothing to see here. When the police warned us, we responded, “We are taking these flowers to the church.”

And we did.

The next morning many, many roses adorned the makeshift sanctuary of one of the poorest immigrant churches in our city. Later, the pastor told us that an elderly señora had wept at seeing them. She was devoted to Santa Teresita (The Little Flower) and that day was her feast day. !Esto es un Milagro!”—“It’s a miracle!”

And so it was.

The flowers did not materialize out of thin air. It took multiple miracles of place, time, willingness, connection and language for those flowers to make their way to the church to honor Santa Teresita and console an old woman. In these small moments, the unforeseen met the desire to live into God’s vision, and God’s vision prevailed. I love thinking of the feeding of the multitudes in this way through a detail retained in Matthew’s version, where Jesus “broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds” (Mt 14:19). The miracle here was generosity and sharing that, like a wave at a baseball game, started with Jesus and then his friends, and it caught speed and continued! The people on the hillside looked through their bags and their pockets and said, “How much do you have?” “I have a few pieces of fish,” “Oh, I have some more bread,” “Maybe, between all of us, there’s enough.”

Imagine our world this way, where nothing is “mine” and everything is “ours.” Wouldn’t that be an amazing miracle! And yes, remembering those miraculous roses still makes me cry.

More: Scripture

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