The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
July 29, 2018 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There are many ways to interpret today’s gospel. It’s also one of the most immediately recognized gospels when mere mention is made of “the loaves and fishes.” What an amazing miracle! From five loaves and two fish Jesus makes enough food for thousands! And there are even leftovers. Twelves baskets! (Side comment: It was at this time that Jesus invented a kind of food that has nourished an untold number of families for centuries, namely, “leftovers”!)
But seriously, there is a very important point about this gospel. This account of Jesus feeding the multitude is a sign of God’s generous love, of God’s unlimited forgiveness and mercy. And why is this important to think about? Because we often limit our calculation in human situations, especially those involving the act of giving, to what is called “zero-sum thinking.” A word about that.
Generally, we think of reality in almost any context as limited. Especially when it comes to anything quantitative where numbers can describe the action. For instance, if I have one dollar and I give fifty-five cents to one child, there will be only forty-five cents for the other children.
In matters of love, zero-sum thinking can also be applied. If one loves one person completely, it may seem that there would be less love for others. Erick Fromm, respected psychologist in his best-seller years back, the Art of Love, argued that this is not always the case, He held that when one’s love is healthy and genuine, one can actually love more. Human love, he argued is not limited by loving, but enhanced.
Think about parental love. If parents have two children (or more), does this necessarily mean that the first child is loved any less after others come into the family? I think not.
Now back to Jesus and the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Scripture scholars call this a miracle of generosity and abundance. It symbolizes God’s limitless love. This means that God loves everyone without limit. While this may stretch our imagination to its limit, we should still reflect on its meaning for our own understanding of God.
©David M. Thomas, PhD