Friday, July 24, 2015

When Jesus Left the Poor Hungry

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes has a coda in a minor key. Jesus flees because he knows the crowd will try to make him a worldly, bread-giving king. Then he escapes across the sea of Galilee under cover of darkness, leaving the crowd hungry and without food. Urged on by their empty bellies, the crowd pursues Jesus.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
John 6:24-26 (NABRE).

The crowds had been fed by the multiplied loaves. Their empty bellies had been filled. When they woke up to find Jesus gone, they determined to hunt him down. Not because they loved him, or even because they were impressed by his miracles, but because of the brute fact that he had filled their bellies with bread.

Like many Catholics today, they have lost sight of (or never known) the divinity of Christ and the supernatural reality of the Church. To "solve poverty" is the thing. ("The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty." Laudato Si, 27.) To solve poverty? Not just feed the hungry, but "solve poverty" as if some philosophy or program were capable of such a thing! In their pride they imagine they can and must save a 4.5 billion year old planet designed, made and sustained by God.

Returning to the Gospel, what words would they have for a Jesus who leaves the poor hungry? Probably nothing very nice, although if He were willing to learn, they would be happy to teach Him.

Pope Francis: "We have still not solved the problem of poverty!"

The modern current of the Church is that of Dostoyevsky's famous Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov. "Feed us first, and then command us to be generous!" The Grand Inquisitor tells Jesus the poor will write that on their banners. In this tale within the novel, told by atheistic Ivan, the Catholic Grand Inquisitor holds Jesus prisoner. He condemns Him for rejecting Satan's three temptations. Mankind cannot bear the Gospel. Better to treat him as contented cattle.

The Grand Inquisitor has lost faith in God, and bears a cold, godless faith in the world.

When Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, one of Satan's three temptations could not have been more simple: turn these stones into bread! But Jesus knew he had not come for bellies, but for souls. Almost gently, he redirects the worldly temptation into a ringing supernatural truth.
One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4 (NABRE).

Today many of our prelates seem to be saying, "Let us see to bread on earth; then we shall worry about pie in the sky later."

"Pie in the Sky" was Socialist agitprop which made fun of the idea of heaven.

You will eat, by and by,
In the glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die,

It might have been sung in fun by the poor who wanted to make Jesus their bread-giving king. It has probably been sung by more than one cleric, Little Red Songbook in hand. Clerics who have lost the whole point of their vocation.

But what comes next makes clear the supernatural purpose of Christ's coming. It was to these poor, hungry, confused people that Jesus patiently explained that He was the Bread of life.
So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 
 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe.
John 6:32-40 (NABRE).

Of course, most thought this supernatural business was nonsense. (They still do.) They turned their back on Jesus, and no doubt went in search of breakfast, angrily singing "Pie In the Sky" as they went.

It is not recorded that Jesus fed the poor here, although he could have. If that is what the Christian religion is about, why did Jesus not set a better example?

Next: God and Mammon


  1. I am embarrassed to say I can't find the story, but there is another Jesus and crowd story in which the crowd is so large he leaves via the lake nearby. He does not feed them food. He feels pity for they are without a shepherd. He was concerned for their souls, not for their bellies.

    Any missionary about which you read will have zeal for saving SOULS, not for filling bellies. Fr. Pierre De Smet is one such example. It is not that any concern for hunger was absent; it was not primary. It was incidental and compassionate.

    1. Exactly. Churchmen used to have their priorities straight. Of course, feeding people is important, and God's work. "Eliminating poverty" was never the program, except in Heaven. And, back in the days when spreading the Gospel was taken seriously (it is absolutely NOT now; in fact now it is seen as something of an imposition and embarrassment) missionaries like DeSmet and many others knew they were there to win immortal souls for eternal salvation. The fact that this mission has been abandoned by the Church leads me to question sometimes just what sort of institution we are dealing with here.

    2. That all seemed to change with, what, liberation theology in Latin America? Post 1970?

    3. 'what sort of institution we're dealing with here.'.........the 64 million dollar question, that Catholics want to KNOW.

  2. If you have not read it, I think you would find Pope Benedict's take on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus compelling (Jesus of Nazareth, pgs. 211-217).

  3. "The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me." ~ Matthew 26:11

  4. Bear, you're on a roll. Obviously you have been spending some good time with Jesus, and can clearly see the humanist (NGO) versus heavenly focus of Francis. Unfortunately you are too rare a breed today. After the great schism coming there will be many lions and tigers and bears defending the Truth, although still a minority compared to the modernists.

    1. The number of modernists in the Church are many more than originally anticipated, that is for SURE.

  5. Excellent Mr Bear. Right on, of course. Bishop Fulton Sheen's 'Life of Christ' (1958) has a passage concerning the three temptations in which he reaches the same conclusion as you that turning stones into bread is the same as turning the Church into an NGO. He anticipated the outcome of Vatican II and the effect of Modernism on the Church. How prescient was Bishop Sheen! His doubts about Vatican II may be the reason his case for sainthood in not moving forward.

  6. If poverty is an objective evil, how can religious, including Jesuits, take a vow to embrace it? I ask only for information.

  7. This morning I waited with bated breath to learn how the pastor would handle the Gospel reading in which Jesus multiplies the loaves. Let's just say he left it open to either interpretation, which is a blessing in this day and age.

  8. I, too, was wondering in which direction the sermon would go on the miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves, John 6:1-15. My husband and I are in France for the summer and we went to Aix-en-Provence to the basilica of St. Jean de Malte for Mass. There the incomparable music of the Dominican, Pere Andre Gouzes, is sung in harmony by the monks in charge of the parish and the congregation. The parish and community has been led by Pere Daniel Bourgeois for thirty-five years under the archbishop, Mgr. Christophe Dufour. Pere Bourgeois gave the sermon and focused on the line: "Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?" Jesus said this to test Philip. Pere Bourgeois explained that in the original Greek, the Scripture reads: "D'ou," i.e., "from where" are we to get the bread to feed all these people. The point of the sermon is that the miracle is NOT about sharing (as so many commentators today think, including Pope Francis (see Zenit, Angelus, for Sunday, July 26th) as if Jesus was just teaching a lesson to the people about being generous with their personal cache of food. Rather, Jesus was identifying himself as the Word, the Son of Man, the Son of God, who created everything to sustain man and who provides for us out of His divine providence. The miracle is a testimony to the divinity of Jesus. Under the current pope, who has politicized the work of the Church with his eco-concerns--as if we could actually, ourselves, solve the problem of poverty once and for all (what arrogance!)--and tuned the work of the Church away from focusing on the divine work of salvation to the distribution of earthly bread, many have lost sight of what it means to believe in God, to worship God, and have made an idol out of their political concerns. People are looking everywhere for some kind of salvation and have mistaken political revolution for the message of the kingdom of God. Thanks so much for you blog, Bear, as we work to try and correct this.


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