Some people say that the real miracle in our gospel story this morning is not the fact that the food multiplied, but rather that the example of sharing the loaves and fishes prompted other people in the crowd to give up the food they had been hoarding and share it also, so that everyone was fed. Others will explain the miracle by saying that being with Jesus was so satisfying that even the tiny amount of food that was shared (five loaves and two fishes divided amongst thousands of people) was enough for all those people. Maybe those explanations are true. I tend to think that strange things happened when Jesus was around, so I have no problem with any explanation, even the traditional one of the loaves and fishes multiplying enough to feed all the people and still have leftovers. It is true in our own lives that whatever we have, if we are willing to give it to God, becomes enough for us and for the people around us. When we think we don’t have enough strength or courage or time to go on, we are absolutely right. So we can choose to give up, or we can choose to give what we have to God and allow God to satisfy our needs in ways that we could never have imagined. We can keep pretending to possess things to keep us secure, or we can realize that we are only temporarily given stewardship of things, and by acknowledging that all belongs to God, we can all share what we have so that no one is in want.
But it is obvious we don’t do that. We need to be like the crowd in the gospel story – we need to let Jesus satisfy us. Instead, we try being satisfied by everything else, and while everything that God created is good, it is not God. If we let God satisfy us, then everything else is gravy – wonderful when we have it, but quite alright if we don’t.
Isaiah talks about this same matter in our first reading this morning: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” He is wondering why we waste time hoarding things while God is offering so much more for free. Once again, the things are not bad – it is how we substitute them for God that is the problem. Isaiah is trying to get us to listen to wisdom when he says: “Incline your ear and come to me, listen, so that you may live.”, and in so doing echoes what the monks know so well from the beginning of Benedict’s Rule: “Listen with the ear of your heart.”
Listen to the truth that only God satisfies. We can never be full of God, and we will always want more, but it is a life-giving hunger, rather than a life-killing greed for things. Like the crowd in the gospel: we can share, we can be satisfied with little, we can allow God to multiply what we have – whatever the miracle really was doesn’t matter, because the crowd allowed Jesus to satisfy them in whatever way he knew best. May we allow God to satisfy us. May we incline the ear of our hearts and live. AMEN