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by Catherine Frakas 25 May 2002

Sermon on John 6:1-15 QUESTION from Jane Gahlon April 20, 1999 In Father's sermon at daily Mass.,4/16/99, on John 6:1-15 (the multiplication of loaves and fishes) he said that the people, in traveling, brought along their own food and that the miracle occurred in the sharing that they did of their food. Knowing that this isn't what the Catholic Church teaches, can you give me a good solid argument against it?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on Thursday, May 6, 1999 Dear Miss Gahlon:
With all due respect to the Father, he is mistaken and has departed from the clear teaching of Scripture, in my opinion.
First, the text says, After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they say the signs which he did on those who were diseased.
It appears to me that the multitude followed him immediately (as to not lose him in where he was going). There is no indication that they went home first to prepare for a trip and thus would not have been prepared with food for a trip. Some might have quickly grabbed some food, but there is no indication that all did so, as verse 9 would imply (There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many? The disciples clearly believed that there was not sufficient food to feed the 5000 (probably 15,000 as the count, according to Jewish custom, would have only counted the men and not the wives, children, slaves, servants, etc.).
Second, if it was expected and normal for people traveling in this context to bring along plenty of food why would Jesus ask Philip, How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat? Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do – a miracle. But why have the miracle he intended, and why ask Philip about where the food was to come from if it people normally brought their own food? Sure, some might be needy and thus the need to share, but that was not what Jesus asked. He did not ask, Where are we going to get food for those to needy to have brought their own? Jesus and the disciples clearly felt a pastoral need to see to it these people were fed. Why? if these people all brought their own food?
Third, Jesus took the loaves and fish, blessed them, and distributed the food. The people took as much as they wanted (v. 11-12). After eating their fill Jesus instructed the disciples to gather up the left-overs (v. 12-13). There was 12 baskets left, FROM THE FIVE BARLEY LOAVES (v. 13). St. John clearly indicates that these left-overs were from the original five barley loaves.
Fourth, the people, (the people who according to Father’s interpretation already had plenty of food) were amazed at the left-overs. They were so amazed that they saw it as a sign of Jesus’ prophetic ministry (v. 14). They were so amazed that in verse 15 we learn that Jesus had to leave the area before they grabbed him to make him king. These people were mighty impressed.
Such a reaction of the people would not have happened had everyone just shared what food they had.
I am sorry, but the idea that sharing was the miracle and not a genuine miracle of the multiplication of the loaves does violence to the Scripture and seeks to diminish the sovereignty of God to perform miracles.
This theory expressed in Father’s sermon is not a new one. It is a common de-miracle-izing of the Bible. Although the Father may not realize it, but these sorts of notions come from the heresy of modernism. There have been many Encyclicals about this issue of de-mythologizing Scripture. I include just one of MANY possible quotes from just one of many Encyclicals:
ENCYCLICAL LETTER OF POPE LEO XIII PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS ON THE STUDY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE But first it must be clearly understood whom we have to oppose and contend against, and what are their tactics and their arms. In earlier times the contest was chiefly with those who, relying on private judgment and repudiating the divine traditions and teaching office of the Church, held the Scriptures to be the one source of revelation and the final appeal in matters of faith. Now, we have to meet the Rationalists, true children and inheritors of the older heretics, who, trusting in their turn to their own way of thinking, have rejected even the scraps and remnants of Christian belief which had been handed down to them. They deny that there is any such thing as revelation or inspiration, or Holy Scripture at all; they see, instead, only the forgeries and the falsehoods of men; they set down the Scripture narratives as stupid fables and lying stories: the prophecies and the oracles of God are to them either predictions made up after the event or forecasts formed by the light of nature; the miracles and the wonders of God's power are not what they are said to be, but the startling effects of natural law, or else mere tricks and myths; and the apostolic Gospels and writings are not the work of the Apostles at all. These detestable errors, whereby they think they destroy the truth of the divine books, are obtruded on the world as the peremptory pronouncements of a certain newly-formed free science, a science, however, which is so far from final that they are perpetually modifying and supplementing it. And there are some of them who, notwithstanding their impious opinions and utterances about God, and Christ, the Gospels and the rest of Holy Scripture, would fain be considered both theologians and Christians, and men of the gospel, and who attempt to disguise by such honorable name their rashness and their pride. To them we must add not a few professors of other sciences who approve their views and give them assistance and are urged to attack the Bible by a similar intolerance of revelation. And it is deplorable to see these attacks growing every day more numerous and more severe. It is sometimes men of learning and judgment who are assailed; but these have little difficulty in defending themselves from evil consequences.
But what is worse about this manipulation of this Scripture and to suggest the miracle did not take place other than a sharing is that, quoting from the Navarre Bible Commentary (the best modern commentary available) on John 6:11 (Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated…:
The account of the miracle begins with almost the same words as those which the Synoptics and St. Paul use to describe the institution of the Eucharist (cf. Mt. 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:25). This indicates that the miracle, in addition to being an expression of Jesus’ mercy towards the needy, is a symbol of the Blessed Eucharist, about which our Lord will speak a little later on (cf. John 6:26-59) If we begin to mess with the interpretation of Scripture and to demythologize Scripture, we mess with the interconnnectiveness of the teaching of Jesus.
The miracle of the multiplicity of the loaves is, among other things, a teaching of the Eucharist. How can that be if the miracle was a mere sharing?
What I find interesting is that modernists would interpret this passage in this way. It is to be expected since they also feel that the Mass is merely a community meal, a sharing, and not the Sacrifice of the Mass. For the modernist, the Eucharist and communion is merely a sharing. Once we go down that road we may fall into all sorts of rebellion and heresies. This is the beginning of the idea of open communion, let all come to the table whether Catholic or not, the beginning of no longer believing in the Real Presence but the Eucharist as a symbol of sharing.
This is a dangerous road that this priest has taken in his sermon. I pray that he doesn’t really know the full implications of what he has suggested, and that he will come to know the implications and thereby repent of these notions.
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