Monday, June 11, 2007

Thoughts on The Feeding of the 5,000

All just personal speculation.

From Mark:

"6:39Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42And they all ate and were satisfied."

First, the people are seperated into groups - but pretty big groups, not small ones. This is much like how we are seperated into different churches, or as it has been called since the 4th century, parishes. Then, they hand out the 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Now I have for a little while understood this to refer to the 5 'regular' Sacraments and the 2 Sacraments of Service, Matrimony and Orders.

But I noticed something new: Jesus has the apostles hand out the bread, but He *Himself* hands out the fishes, which Mark says He divided amongst the people. Now this is interesting. The bishops of the Church (through the priests) distribute the 5 Sacraments to the people rather indiscriminantly. They don't have to know anything about you, you just go to your parish (or, in the Gospel here, group) and they give you the Sacraments to everyone there. On the other hand, they don't just hand out Marriage and Orders. These are callings from God, which He Himself divides up amongst the people and gives to them, just as here Jesus divides up the two fishes and gives them to the people.

I thought this was very interesting, so I started thinking about the differences between bread and fish. Bread is more or less - especially when speaking of the time of Jesus - standard fare. It's what keeps you alive. It's what you can't go without. There's nothing all that special about it - it's the minimum you need day in and day out to survive. Fish, on the other hand, is special. It has protein, and it gives you the strength to do your work. It has a special flavor to it, and you savor it. Also, some people like one kind of fish, others like others; some like haddock, some like salmon. Now I don't know if Jesus had different kinds of fish, you get the point I'm making. Fish is special, we enjoy it's savor, and what's more we enjoy one type of fish over another. Fish, unlike bread, has to be prepared. You hand out bread to someone and he eats it. He doesn't need to do anything all that special to eat it, except perhaps that if he's sick he needs to be well before he can keep it down. Fish, on the other hand, you have to scale, take out the bones, and cook. It takes a bit of preparation.

In the same way, the 5 Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Pennance, and Annointing are really the standard fare. Obviously they are very special, but in a certain sense they are nothing special, because they are just the regular 'bread' we need day in and day out to survive. Sure, we enjoy them, but in a relatively common way. In other words, everyone has these things in common, and they bring happiness, but when we add our particular vocation to this 'daily bread,' it brings a fullness to the us that wasn't there with these alone, so the way we enjoy the 5 Sacraments is very different from how we enjoy our marriages or our ordination (or consecration). These we enjoy in a very particular way - they add a fullness to our lives, a fullness particular to us, that is not found in the other 5 Sacraments. Now the 'regular' 5 don't require any preperation, other than being in a right relationship with God, just as bread really requires no preparation other than the healing of an inllness. Marriage and Ordination, however, do require special preparation. Just as a man must remove the scales of a fish to eat it, so we must remove the barriers we put between ourselves and others before we can wed or enter a consecrated life. Just as a man must remove the bones from inside a fish before he can eat it, so must we remove many of the undesirable things within ourselves before we can be given to others, for just as a man may choke on the bones of a fish he is given if they are not removed, so will those we seek to serve in life choke on the bones of our own inner sins if we do not remove them as best we can. Just as a man must cook a fish to purify it of disease and to bring it to warmth and readiness to be eaten, so too must we go through a process of gaining warmth for others and readiness to serve them.

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