THE HOLY FOOL
(Sheed & Ward, 1999
A distinctive feature of Christian spirituality is that it is communal. Jesus gathered people from the highways and byways to take their place at God's all-inclusive banquet; he did not intend them to pick at a tasteless "TV dinner" in isolation. In the Christian context, to dance alone, to feast alone are impossibilities; when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, the first words he taught them were,
Using the metaphor of the marriage feast in his parables and demonstrating the lavishness of God's love in his choice of table companions, his concern for the hungry crowds, and his offering of himself as the Bread of Life, Jesus made it clear that his followers were to celebrate the the reign of God together, as a community,... Now, beyond the the words attributed to Jesus at the Last Supper,
"Do this in memory of me,"
Scripture provides no clear liturgical guidelines. We know that the early Christian community gathered in one place to celebrate the Lord's Supper and that the celebration took place in the context of an actual meal; we also know that these celebrations were characterized by what Cullman translates as "exuberant joy" .... But while Jesus may not have left his disciples the specifics as to how they were to gather in his name, we can arrive at some conclusions as to what would be in keeping with the spirit of Holy Foolishness. Throughout this work, we have established that Holy Foolishness is a response to life which is playful, joyful, outrageous at times, authentic, inclusive, prophetic, counter- cultural, naive, uninhibited, transformational, spontaneous, passionate and daring. A liturgy that is inspired by the Holy Foolishness of Christ would possess these characteristics and would be far removed from ritual which is only
Jesus the Holy Fool,
Sheed & Ward, 1999
CELEBRATE OUR COMMON HOME
Preaching and Teaching Laudato Si'
is not a synopsis of Pope Francis' Encyclical on the Environment, but a simply written primer for those who wish to preach, teach or reflect on the spiritual implications of a green agenda; it is a resource for those of any faith who wish to respond to the Pope's plea for ecological conversion. Though the book is primarily intended for preachers and teachers, it offers basic principles for anyone who wishes to learn more about sustainable living. This little book is not a scholarly work, but a series of reflections meant for every day people who happen to preach, teach or think!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How does the Feeding of the 5,000 deepen your understanding of the Eucharist?
What do YOU understand by the claim that "Eucharist is a verb"?
Have you ever been held back by the limiting belief that you lack something of significance, whether health, wealth etc.?
In what ways does the Risen Christ satisfy the hungers of YOUR heart?
In commenting on the
Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
, I sometimes use the expression, "Divine Arithmetic." As one who "doesn't do Math," I take comfort in the fact that God's arithmetic defies logic. In God's scheme of things, 2 x 2 doesn't equal 4 but could very well be 40, or 400, or 4,000,000. Insufficiency becomes excess, emptiness becomes fullness, and all things increase and multiply. Even division is beyond rules: 5 loaves divided by 5,000 men= 0.001 loaf per person (literally a few crumbs). Double the number to include wives and the number becomes 0.0005. And double the number again to include children (a conservative estimate) and the figure is 0.00025 (not even a crumb). Amazingly, in today's gospel, 5 loaves and two fish feed a crowd, with leftovers to spare!
While I take comfort in arithmetic of this kind, I fail to comprehend the facts and figures that have recently featured in the news. Largely because of the imposing of tariffs, increases in military spending and the massive tax breaks for the wealthiest among us, the projected deficit for FY 2020 is
$1.10 trillion: "FY 2020 covers October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020. The deficit occurs because the U.S.
of $4.75 trillion is higher than its
of $3.65 trillion."
This unrestrained spending, however, is not improving the lives of the average citizen; in fact, a Scrooge-like mentality seems to be at work at every level of government, with proposed cuts of 31% to the EPA, 24% to state and US aid, 19% to transportation, 15% to agriculture and 12% to education. The Social Services that have provided the poor and elderly with a safety net are also under attack, as for example, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) could have its budget slashed by $220 billion while Medicare faces $845 billion in cuts over the next ten years.
To further illustrate the Scrooge analogy, it is disheartening to hear that the Trump administration has cut funding for English classes, soccer and legal aid for immigrant youth in detention centers.
The Feast of Corpus Christi reminds
us of our baptismal commitment to be bread for one another, bread for the world. The
Bread of Life
calls us to feed one another-- not make bombs and fuel the war machine, not build walls and create humanitarian crises, not cut economic support for nations that depend on US aid such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. As Christians, we have a choice: to be part of the Body of Christ, committed to building a better world, or to be those who crucify Christ through our indifference, apathy and self-serving ways.
Then he said to his disciples,
"Have them sit down in groups of about fifty."
They did so and made them all sit down.
Then taking the five loaves and the two fish,
and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing over them, broke them,
and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
They all ate and were satisfied.
And when the leftover fragments were picked up,
they filled twelve wicker baskets.
It is always important to view texts in context and this is especially true of today's gospel. The heading in
for the Feeding of the 5,000 is actually
"The Return of the Twelve and the Feeding of the Five Thousand."
At the beginning of Lk 9, Jesus gives the Twelve "power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,"sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. On this mission, they are to take nothing by way of provisions --
"neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money,"
nor even a second tunic! (Lk 9:3). They return eager to share with him all they have accomplished but the crowds soon catch up with them, interrupting their private conversation. Jesus responds by continuing his work of preaching and healing. Eventually, the
Twelve suggest that Jesus should dismiss the crowd so they can find food and lodgings. Jesus' response --
"Give them some food yourselves"
-- must be seen in light of their earlier mission. Though they have successfully preached the Good News and healed the sick, now they are clueless as to next steps. It's as though they have forgotten just how powerful they really are; however, when they align themselves with Jesus' vision and mission, they can accomplish the impossible through his name. Confronted with a hungry crowd, they perceive limitation whereas Jesus invites them to see abundance. To the Twelve, five loaves and two fish represent a situation of scarcity whereas Jesus demonstrates that all things are possible with God. The feeding of the 5,000 men (not to mention the women and children), then, is not just a miracle story but a teachable moment that is both humbling and empowering for the Twelve.
If a sacrament is an outward sign of an inner reality, a grace-giving "God-moment" instituted by Christ, then we could say that the
Feeding of the Five Thousand
is such a moment. Five thousand men (plus their wives and children), hungry to hear the word of God, receive that word and are satisfied. Perhaps they are as spiritually famished as the people of Elisha's day were physically hungry. Presented with twenty barley loaves made "from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear," Elisha instructed his servant to feed the people -- "a hundred men." Like the Twelve, the servant protested that the task was impossible, but Elisha insisted,
"For thus says the Lord,'They shall eat and there shall be some left over'"
(Kgs 4:42-44). Amazingly, with five barley loaves instead of twenty, Jesus' disciples distribute food to more than fifty times as many as people as Elisha's servant -- and there are enough leftovers to fill twelve wicker baskets. Traditionally, these baskets have been associated with the twelve tribes of Israel but given the context of the narrative, perhaps the baskets represent what the Twelve can accomplish through Jesus. There is an almost humorous dimension to this interpretation, as now each of the Twelve has a basket of leftovers to deal with, a trophy of over-abundance! Surely God is in the leftovers!
Also of note is the ritual dimension of this event. Jesus' first instruction to his followers is to make sure those present sit in groupings of 50. Most likely, these groupings would cluster families together -- husbands with their wives, children and extended families. Instead of being lost in the crowd, each person now has a sense of connection, a feeling of intimacy. Then Jesus performs the traditional blessing, the breaking of bread, that begins every Jewish meal:
"Blessed are You, O LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who has brought forth bread from the earth."
With this ritual prayer, Jesus creates "family" out of a vast number of people. The miracle is not so much in the multiplication of provisions but in the creation of a feast that could be described as the long-awaited Messianic Banquet, a "feast of rich food for all peoples" at which God will wipe away every tear (Is 25:6-8).
If the feeding of the "5,000"foreshadows the Last Supper and, by extension, the institution of the Eucharist, there are several insights to consider:
- All things are possible through Christ: the sick find healing, the hungry are satisfied and insufficiency becomes abundance.
- "Feeding the crowd" means more than stuffing empty stomachs; it involves compassion, respect, intimacy, generosity and preaching "Good News."
- Eucharist is a verb rather than a noun: Jesus organizes, prays, breaks bread, and delegates the Twelve to distribute it. The people, in turn, take and eat, possibly sharing food and drink that they have been hoarding for themselves. All this constitutes "Eucharist," not just the words of blessing nor the rite of breaking bread.
- Eucharist is all-inclusive. Anyone who shows up to hear Jesus preach is welcome; no one is excluded on account of beliefs, marital status, sexual orientation, etc. At no point during the distribution of bread and fish do the disciples ask the recipients for proof of their worthiness.
A "Drop In" Info Session on Image Guidance for those who offer inner guidance of any kind or who are interested in learning more about imagery and healing.
Discover how Imagery can help YOUR clients move beyond impasse into new possibilities!
July 10th, 2019
30 N. Michigan Ave #280,
Chicago, IL 60602
Archetypes as Inner Tyrants, Inner Guides
Infinity Foundation, Highland Park, IL
June 24th, July 1st, July 8th, 2019
Mondays, 7:00-9:00 p.m. CST
Imagery and Spiritual Awakening
Institute for Life Coach Training
Tele-course, Tuesday nights, October 15-November 26th, 2019. 5:00-6:30 pm CST