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.
Thanks!!!! I happened to attend a sweet Baptist congregation for my sister’s b’day yesterday. I love how her community knows EVERYONE (unlike my still-packed suburban Cath parish). The substitute preacher was a young chaplain who helped us weave the ironies of David’s “The Lord is my S, I shall NOT WANT” with 2nd Kings’ Bathsheba and Uriah story. He wove in loaves of fishes too, imagining the young fish and loaves boy’s generosity of spirit in that enormous community. THEN the young preacher brought Rumi’s “dead” (but not) SNAKE poem (warning us of ego) and Teddy Kennedy’s choice of words after Chapaquidick. Preacher teacher I had would have said WAY TOO MUCH, but like a woman making a crazy quilt he pulled it off beautifully. He played everyone’s “capacity for distraction’ and “divided will” and helped us see the LIGHT through the DARK.
Thanks for helping us do that too, Kathy.