It took some moments before a full silence settled upon the back row of students in Professor Reznik’s ‘justice in society’ class.
‘A society does not wake up one morning, put aside greed, narcissistic consumerism and pollution of the environment’, she began. ‘Nor does a nation suddenly rise from the dinner-table of state abundance to welcome homeless refugees or boost its international aid. Groups need a really good story before anything like that can transpire. Many people are surprised to learn that it is in religion that the most marvellous transformative stories are sourced.’ Over a series of lectures Professor Reznik explored various examples, among them the Christian gospel story of the feeding of the multitudes.*
‘In the gospels this story appears six times in all, more than any other story’ she attested. ‘It is therefore significant, obviously central to Jesus’ message. We don’t know all that actually happened but that does not matter. What matters is why Mark, Matthew, John and Luke told the story at all. At very least the story means this: if everyone was to share what they have, there would be enough for all. Even that much is radical,’ the professor said. ‘The story not only provides a guiding light to humanity,” Professor Reznik went on, ‘It shows the world what God is like.’
On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines. On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations. He will destroy death forever.- Isaiah 25:6-7
Lord, the Church eagerly awaits the coming of your Christ and his justice. May all peoples hope to share the banquet you prepare for us in the kingdom by sharing even now what is needed for a full life. We ask you this through him who fed the multitudes, Christ the Lord. Amen
It is the sound of life- From ‘ Bread’ by Nancy Keesing
From dough that warmed the hand
And took blood’s heat to grow.
I shape the loaves, they stand
Again to rise before
Their baking into food –
Bread that is a symbol of
Plain goodness, life and God
Today is World AIDS Day
* Besides the story of the death and Resurrection of Jesus, the story of the feeding of the multitudes is the only other one that appears in each of the four gospels, Mark 6:31-44 and 8:1-9; Matthew 14:13-21 and 15:32-39; John 6:5-15; Luke 9:10-17.