Thursday 8 January 2015

Multiplying compassion

Not a story I like very much, but the point is good: the point is the multiplication of compassion. Something that not even Jesus can do with a flip of his fingers. 

Miracles in Vain

When Jesus multiplied bread and fish near the lake of Galilee, close to Capernaum, people could not believe their eyes. They had a good meal and collected the left over in twelve baskets. Several in the crowd, a couple of apostles too among them, wanted to catch hold of him that day itself and declare him their King! That would solve all their problems of food, they thought! Realizing the danger, Jesus ordered his apostles to get into the boat and packed them off to the other side of the lake. He escaped to the mountains to pray to his Father, to overcome his own possible temptation of becoming an earthly king! This was a temptation that he had already once successfully staved off in the desert. Satan had tempted him to turn stones into bread! The evil one had promised to return with his temptations. Here again he was, in the crowd!

The next weekend too there was a big crowd around him. They were attracted by the possibility of getting food! This time the apostles began to have pity on them!
Philip said to Jesus: “Jesus, look, these people have been following you around for the whole day. Now it is evening and this place is deserted. Where will they go?”
“Well, are you going to do something for them?” Jesus asked with a smile.
Philip was embarrassed. In the meanwhile Simon, the Zealot joined him: “Are you joking? We thought that you would do something.”
Jesus heaved a sigh. “All right. Make the people sit in groups. Has anyone brought some bread or fish? Bring them to me.”
“Not even that boy has brought anything this time,” replied Simon somewhat awkwardly.
Jesus controlled himself and asked for baskets. As he raised his eyes to heaven to invoke his Father, some baskets were filled with bread and others with fish. Immediately the apostles and some other volunteers passed the baskets around. All had their fill.
“Collect what is left over,” said Jesus.
After going around a little Judas said: “Sorry Lord, nothing is left over this time.”
“Nothing at all?” He was surprised.

A week later Jesus was near Bethsaida, on the north eastern side of where the Jordan joins the lake. But the crowds traced him. He received them well, cured their sick and told them several parables about the Kingdom. The evening came and the people were still milling around with no signs of going home. The crowd was waiting in expectation. Jesus did not need any prompting this time. He decided to work the miracle all by himself, that too, in an uncharacteristic dramatic manner.

The people sat on the beach sand in small groups and the apostles stood around Jesus in attention. This time no bread was brought and not even baskets were collected. Jesus flipped his fingers and two hundred baskets appeared in front of him. He pointed his finger at them and they were all filled with fresh and sweet smelling loaves. He flipped his finger again and hundred baskets appeared close to the water. Jesus looked at the water and waved a sign as if to welcome the fish. Immediately hundreds of big fish began to swim to the shore and by themselves jumped into those baskets! His onlookers were dumbfounded! A third time he flipped his fingers and small bundles of firewood gathered in several places and caught fire. They were the ovens for cooking the fish! Jesus ordered: “Take this and distribute.” He then left them, walking a few feet away and began to pray alone to his Father. He was really upset!

His silent meditation was interrupted by some confusion in the crowd. A section of the crowd was on its feet shouting while some were eating and still some others leaving the place with bundles of food. Simon and James, the son of Alphaeus came over to Jesus.
“What is the problem? Have you collected the left overs?” asked Jesus.
“Left overs?” quipped James. “Lord, we are running short.”
“Running short?” Jesus almost shouted.
“What you produced is not enough,” said Simon. “Look there, some people on their feet. They did not get anything. Could you please…errr… multiply some more bread?”
Jesus looked straight into their eyes. They looked down to the ground embarrassed. He got up and walked towards the crowd. First he saw the Bartholomew and Judas Iscariot standing there protecting ten baskets of bread and five of fish.
“What is this for?” Jesus demanded.
Judas hesitated: “We have put these aside for us… I am… the administrator and it is my duty to  reserve something for ourselves.”
“So much? I see that my apostles are exceedingly prudent,” he remarked. Moving further he saw some people leaving with bundles of food, collected for a few rainy days; some had grabbed entire baskets and some were obviously over-eating. Naturally, food did not reach all!

“Gather the crowd together again,” Jesus ordered, anger visible in his eyes. No one dared to say anything. They moved close to him and sat down, including those who did not get enough food. He let his gaze wander over the crowd, observing the well-fed and the famished, the fittest and the weakest, the grabbing and the deprived! Finally his eyes also halted on his apostles, who were in-charge of the just distribution!

“I have something to tell you all,” he began.
“The first time you did your part and I did mine. All of you ate well, and there were twelve baskets left over. The second time I did it all, and nothing was left over. Yet I know that I produced more than enough. Today you came searching for me all the way to this odd place. I worked this miracle in a dramatic manner, which I hate to do. And now, food is not enough.”
All were still. Not even the leaves on the trees moved.
“How would it be enough?” he shouted. Several in the crowd lowered they eyes. The message was going home slowly, at least for those who had ears to hear.
“Look at these poor people, hungry still. Is it my fault? Had I produced hundred more baskets it would still not be enough! I produced food for your need, not for your greed.”
“My Father too will not do it. What I have done for you three times, my Father does every day. He multiplies bread daily! Raise your eyes and look at the fields. You drop a grain of wheat on the ground and the earth produces a hundred. Is that not a miracle? Which of you with all your wisdom and skill can do that? Look at the sea. The fishes multiply in millions. All that is my Father’s work. Then why is food running short? Why are there poor people among you? Look at the animals in the forest. They never run short of food! Why? Because they satisfy their need, not gather out of greed.”
“You know what I am talking about. But it pains me to know that you refuse to learn the lesson. It will always be a pain in the heart of my Father, that there will be poor, marginalized, deprived and exploited people among you. Are they not his children, your brothers and sisters? My Father’s daily miracles are in vain, as what I have done today has been. I shall not multiply bread for you any longer. If you have not learnt so far, you will not learn anymore. Let him who has ears listen, and let him who has a heart understand!”

Jesus sat down, closed his eyes and remained silent. The crowd got up slowly to go home. When most of them had left, he opened his eyes to see a few people sharing  their bread and fish with those who did not get them. Water filled his eyes. They were tears of joy. While most people had stomachs, some people had also hearts! How he wished he could multiply compassion! But he knew that not even he, the Son of Almighty God, could do it with a flip of his fingers!

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Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary