There’s a happy connection between the feast of St. Ignatius (July 31) who encouraged the use of the imagination in prayer, and the gospel Sunday July 29 (John 6:1-15). Taking the Ignatian approach to the story of Jesus feeding 5000 from a child’s fish and bread, we might ask, “who packed the lunch?”
Dads today would do it, but probably not in Jesus’ time. So we speculate how that mom felt, she who had probably experienced mostly scarcity throughout her life. Suddenly, a silvery cascade of fish and abundance of bread, smiles crumb-smudged! A lavish banquet filled those whose food had usually been rationed. Their ancestors would’ve said the desert bloomed.
Afterwards, the leftover pieces gathered “so nothing may be lost” speaks powerfully to the fragmentation many women feel. Men are regarded as single-minded and dedicated, while women, says anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, “have been regarded as unreliable because they are torn by multiple commitments….But what if we were to recognize the capacity for distraction, the divided will, as representing a higher wisdom…a vision… sensitive to complexity, to the multiple rather than the singular?”
Bringing imagination to the gospel deepens our sense of ownership and makes it more relevant to our lives today. Thanks, Ignatius!
For more of this “Midrash” approach to scripture, see HIDDEN WOMEN OF THE GOSPELS by Kathy Coffey, (Orbis Books, www. orbisbooks.com, 800-258-5838) from which this excerpt comes.