What is that between so many? (John 6:9)
There are those who are uncomfortable about the miracles in the Gospels and try and explain them away. Perhaps there is some natural explanation, they say. Perhaps the walking on the water was a trick of the light. Perhaps the stilling of the storm was co-incidence. Perhaps the feeding of the 5000 was not supernatural at all, but an extraordinary act of sharing by the crowd, so that all were fed.
Mm. Perhaps. But perhaps those who try and explain these things away entirely miss the point. Their scepticism makes the account - and Jesus - too ordinary, too banal. Let me try and explain.
There is another occasion when Jesus is asked to perform a miracle with bread. Only on that occasion he refused. It was when he was tempted by the devil in the desert. Now why perform the miracle now, and not then?
Well there are many reasons, but one is certainly this. He refuses to turn a stone to bread to create a spectacle - but he willing makes little bread into much bread to feed the crowd.
Jesus takes what we give him and makes more, much more of it. A little love is multiplied into great love. A little sorrow for our sins becomes an overflowing forgiveness. Our small talents and abilities become great with his help. Our simple prayers are joined to his all embracing will. Drops of olive oil convey his healing power. A little water is made the gateway to eternal life. Our gifts of bread and wine become his Body and Blood.
Christ takes our little offerings and makes them great. God does not destroy nature, but expands it and enhances it and glorifies it. As St Thomas Aquinas says “Grace perfects nature”. The stone is not destroyed but the loaves and fish are much multiplied.
It is like the words of the Christmas carol:
“What can I give him, poor that I am, if I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. What can I give him? Give my heart.”
A small offering: a great reward.