From the first time I heard the story of the loaves and the fishes, it reminded me of the story "Stone Soup". I have never been able to separate the two, because they both have always spoken to me about generosity-- of sharing one's food and one's spirit.
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The story of the loaves and fishes was the Gospel today at Mass:
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,The priest talked about the miracle this was and focused on how God supplies what we need. It was a nice homily. I tried not to think about stone soup...
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved
with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so
that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he
said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who
in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over— twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and
The story of Stone Soup actually has many versions, depending on the country and tradition from which the story is being told... the basic structure is this:
Some travellers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers. Then the travellers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travellers answer that they are making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavour, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help them out, so that gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travellers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.I see both stories as being about using the resources at hand-- people pulling together what turns out to be enough for all (with leftovers!) The miracle of the loaves and the fishes may be seen as Jesus performing a miracle that multiplies those loaves and fishes, or it may be seen as the miracle of everyone sharing out what they had brought-- the miracle is generosity. I know that much of the commentary around this miracle focuses on the multiplying of the loaves and fishes-- and the fact that this story is told in all four Gospels. The Church finds that to be noteworthy-- this must be an important message.
Wikipedia link for Stone Soup
Whichever way you interpret the story of the loaves and fishes-- Jesus causing men to share or Jesus actually multiplying the loaves and fish with his touch-- I see it as an important message about sharing what we have available. It will always make me think of Stone Soup...
... and I still think we are meant to take care of one another.