On Bogus Miracles - A Reflection on Mark 6:34-44
The story of Jesus miraculously multiplying a few fish and loaves to feed upwards of five thousand people is one of the few that can be found in all the four gospels (see also Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-13) suggesting its importance. The narrative is practically the same in all four, except in John’s Gospel the little food is provided by a little boy. I have loved this story and have often used it to illustrate several points, but I want to make another kind of point today.
I heard a young visiting priest in my parish back home give a homily on this passage and was shocked when he said the miracle never happened. What actually happened was a young boy took out the little food he was carrying with him and shared it with others who didn’t have any. Seeing him do this, the others who were gathered on the hilltop to listen to Jesus, took out the food they were carrying and started sharing it, and so everybody ate. I don’t think I heard the rest of the service; I was so dumbstruck.
I don’t let these things slide, so I went to meet the priest after the service was over and asked him where he was getting his ideas from. He said this is what they were taught in the seminary he went to. I couldn’t believe it, so I investigated, and I found out that he was telling the truth. Now this is not a generalization, but in at least a couple of seminaries, those who are in formation to become priests are taught not to take the Bible literally, and that most of the miracles could be explained naturally.
Little wonder then that we don’t see miracles in the church today like the early church witnessed because if those who teach the faith don’t believe in them how can they happen? Not only will they not be able to work miracles as Jesus said they would (see Matthew 10:8 for just one of several instances), they will pour scorn upon the miracles that others work so as to undermine them, and consequently undermine the faith of believers as well.
I know there will be people who take offense at today’s reflection, and not just among the clergy either, but when things are wrong, somebody needs to point them out, so they can be corrected. And since mostly everybody just keeps their mouths shut, it is unfortunately left to a few people like me to do the job. So, I know I might lose a few subscribers, but I hope that among those who remain there are some wise enough and bold enough to do what’s necessary. And that’s to teach that miracles are real. And believe.
"Let it be done for you according to your faith” (Matthew 9:29).