Sunday, August 16, 2020

One Time Only Bible Study


This is rare, coming from me. Full disclosure: I am a lapsed Catholic who was a great altar boy. In our parish the altar boys brought food to old people, read to them even when their homes smelled like urine, helped paint a house or two for poor people, that sort of thing. We weren't always great at it, but we tried.
That said, a friend of mine recently posted something about the New Testament of the Bible on FB, calling out the impossibly magikal stories that could not have happened. I agree, but for different reasons. If Jesus could, for instance, raise Lazarus from the dead because Lazarus' mother was so distraught, why didn't he raise others whose mothers were also distraught? I mean, what kind of superhero is that?
My personal favorite story in the various books of the New Testament is the story of the Loaves and Fishes. That's the one where Jesus was followed by a large crowd out of town and when he realized people were hungry took one loaf of bread and one fish and gave it to the first hungry person. But he still had a loaf and another fish, so he gave that to the second person. And he kept multiplying the loaves and fishes until everybody ate.
I grew up thinking what a wonderful miracle that was, until I realized that I didn't like it at all. First of all, who the heck plays pied piper with a couple of thousand people to drag them out of town in the freaking desert without having water available? Where were the concessionaires? Who planned that rally and why were they so darned incompetent?
I get that multiplying loaves of bread and fish is a cool miracle, but it doesn't seem like much of a miracle to me. My idea of a great miracle would be that when people were hungry and thirsty, Jesus would have known that everyone, or most, had brought a stash of food or water. That is fairly standard all over the world when going off the beaten track. But people are selfish with their stashes. If they thought to bring it and someone else didn't, there is a tendency to think "too bad for you for not bringing food" in such situations, and I have been in a lot of them in the jungle, or hitchhiking across the USA several times, or just hiking.
To me, the real miracle -- once you realized you hadn't brought anybody with a food stand -- would be to coax everyone at the event to take out their secret stashes and to share those. And there would probably be -- as there usually is -- more than enough for everyone.
Getting people to be selfless is a true miracle. You don't need superpowers, you just need enough love. And that's what I think really happened that day in the desert a long time ago.
And that is the end of Gorman's bible study, I promise.

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