Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Feast of Body and Blood of Christ, Beverly Bingle RCWP

Today's gospel
looks like a giant picnic potluck
for the Knights of Columbus.
Luke tells us that there were 5,000 men
sitting on the grass
eating fish sandwiches.
Who planned it?
Who cooked the fish, baked the bread, and packed the baskets?
Matthew's gospel gives us a hint.
When Matthew tells this story
of the multiplication of the loaves and fish,
he adds a detail: “not counting women and children.”
Theologian Megan McKenna suggests that the ratio at that time
would have been 5 or 6 women and children
for every adult man,
so the crowd would have been 25,000 or 30,000
if everyone had been counted.
That many people in a crowd,
whether it's 5,000 or 30,000, cannot be factual.
Jesus was outside the fishing village of Bethsaida,
total population of no more than 6,000,
so maybe 1,200 men from there... if they all came.
The other 3,800 couldn't have come from the surrounding towns.
The biggest village outside Bethsaida
had no more than 400 people,
which would be 80 adult men
and 320 women and children from there
and even fewer from each of the smaller villages.
Knowing how outings like picnics work in our time,
we can figure out where the food came from.
It's those Daughters of Isabella, the “ladies' auxiliary” of the KofC.
They fixed it and brought it,
and the miracle that Jesus performed
was getting people to share it—to give it to others.
Besides this feeding of the 5,000 in Luke,
the gospels report lots of other meals that Jesus had a part in,
among them the feeding of the 4,000,
the Cana wedding feast;
meals at the house of Matthew, Peter, Levi, Simon,
Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus, Zacchaeus;
dinners at the houses of two different Pharisees;
the Last Supper;
and after the resurrection at table in Emmaus;
in his appearance to the ten disciples;
and at breakfast on the beach.
These stories are not history.
They are metaphors put together by the evangelists
to tell important lessons about Jesus' life and teaching.
The first century society that Jesus lived in
typically saw four different meanings in meals:
to support kinship,
to enforce boundaries,
to perpetuate social values,
and to gain honor.
And Jesus turned every one of them upside down.
He used meals to disrupt social values
and overturn cultural standards.
For example, Jesus used meals
to redefine who he considered his family.
When his mother and brothers called for him to come out to them,
Jesus said that his family
are the people who hear the word of God and keep it.
And Jesus used meals
to challenge exclusivism in his society and in his religion.
He put the needs of people
ahead of traditions about washing or fasting
or keeping Sabbath rules.
He ate with sinners.
He didn't hesitate to call attention to a sinner
as serving God more faithfully
than a host with great social rank.
In short, when Jesus' followers talked about him,
they remembered his subversive message of love
embodied in table fellowship.
Catholic theologian Joseph Martos
says that the question he asks,
and which most scholars do not ask,
is what experience is the evangelist trying to talk about
when language is being used metaphorically?
What experience of Jesus
is Luke trying to talk about in the feeding of the 5,000?
What experience of Jesus
were the gospel writers trying to talk about
with at least 18 different stories
of meals and eating and drinking—all that table fellowship?
When we look at Jesus' teaching as a whole,
it makes perfect sense.
In his latest book
[Deconstructing Sacramental Theology and Reconstructing Catholic Ritual]
Dr. Martos says that the people of the time
who heard Jesus say
“This is my body” and “This is my blood”—
at least the ones who had followed him along the way—
they would have taken those sentences as metaphors.
My flesh is real food!
My blood is real drink!
I am real!
Chew on what I have said and done.
Drink in what I have taught.
The pattern in that letter of Paul we just heard
uses language that we still use at Mass—
took, blessed, broke, gave.
That pattern shows up in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
It shows up in the Last Supper narratives.
It's what Jesus did,
and what he tells us to do:
Take—you have life, so grab on and live it.
Bless—thank God for all that is, life and breath, wine and bread.
Break—put all you have into loving others, even if it breaks you...
until it does break you.
Give—give all out of love. Give your self away.
So we follow the way of Jesus.
We chew on his example,
drink in his teaching.
We forgive.
We include everyone.
We love one another.
We have potlucks.
And we break bread together.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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