A Fish Story Well Worth Believing

Two years ago on my own little website I wrote a short reflection on today’s Gospel reading (or John’s version thereof) about Jesus’ famous “feeding of the 5,000” with merely five loaves and two fish. John’s version (unlike the others) had mentioned that the fish were provided by a young-ish boy; I had played the boy in a creative little school musical in third grade.

Here are the key excerpts from what I wrote then:

And here was the lesson (or at least one of the lessons) of that sweet little play for children: What we give might not seem like much when compared with the task at hand — but if we give what little we do have, from a free and willing heart, Christ can turn it into something plenteous and wonderful….Never doubt the possibility that even a small act of our own kindness can have beautiful repercussions down the line — not because we did the kindness, but if, and because, we hand that kindness up to Christ, for Him to transform that small kindness into something miraculously grace-filled and salvific.

It occurred to me this week to see what others far wiser have written about this miracle — the only miracle (so says the literature) recounted in all four Gospels. Naturally, I turned to my favorite Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis. I quickly found one passage, not at all an extensive one but still insightful.

The passage came in a book of essays collectively sold under the title The Grand Miracle. One major point of the first essay, “Miracles,” is that all of life as we know it is a miracle of God’s creation, not fully explicable without a creative and ordering power. The miracles done by Jesus, or God incarnate, have as “one of their chief purposes” the intent that “men, having seen a thing done by [Jesus’] personal power on a small scale, may recognize, when they see the thing done on a large scale, that the power behind [the large-scale thing] is also personal…. The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

Specifically with respect to the loaves and fish, he wrote: “When He fed the thousands He multiplied fish as well as bread. Look in every bay and almost every river. This swarming, pulsating fecundity shows He is still at work…. This miraculous multiplication of fish reveals the real Genius” — defined by Lewis, etymologically, as a god, and the God, of endless, Genesis-like, creative fertility.

For John’s Gospel to recognize that the fish was caught and offered by a small boy — and thus, as I theorized two years ago, to show that a small and seemingly unimportant act of our own kindness can be transformed by Christ into “something miraculously grace-filled and salvific” — is to recognize that God wants us to join Him, even in our own tiny ways, in his loving, creative, miraculous Genius. It is a Genius that keeps creating the everyday miracles of daily life, all around us, if we only will acknowledge it, and the miracles, as such.

The little boy gave; Christ multiplied, and thousands were nourished. We can be part of the ongoing, universal Miracle by choosing to give to it, or we can stand apart from it, spiritually unfed.

The choice should be easy, and once made it becomes less choice than celebration — a joyful celebration of God’s life-giving Genius.

Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist with a degree in theology. His faith-themed satirical novel, Mad Jones: Heretic, is due for publication this summer by Liberty Island Media.