Lectionary Year A
August 4, 2002
Matthew 14:13-21

Hermeneutical Bridge

Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.

Old Math

      "I don't know how it works," the old semi-retired Roman Catholic priest was telling the newly ordained priest assigned to his parish. The young priest, Father Michael, was a Jesuit, trained in typical Jesuit style: hard thinking, logical thought processes, and ready to win an argument at the drop of a hat.

      They were eating lunch in the rectory following the final mass of the morning. "You sound more like a Baptist than a Catholic today," Michael teased his elder. "Yes, sir, that homily about tithing could get you right into a Southern Baptist church!"

      Father James, the older priest, chuckled as he answered. "Aw, folks don't care if I sound like a Baptist - they're all good folks. But I've always believed in tithing - in fact, I believe the more you give to the Lord, the better off you are."

      "But you see, it doesn't make sense," Michael replied a bit impatiently. "The more you give away, the more you've got? I don't get it."

      "Of course it doesn't make sense to you Jesuits," James teased, shaking his head. "Everything's got to be perfect logic to you guys before you'll accept it. What about the miracles of Jesus?"

      "What about them?" Michael asked.

      "How many of them 'make sense' as you put it?" Father James challenged.

      "Like the feeding of the 5,000 you referred to in your homily today?" Michael asked.

      "Right. There's no way you or I can explain the miracle of feeding 5,000. Or any other miracle for that matter," Father James answered.

      "Oh, we came up with a lot of possibilities in seminary classes," Michael replied.

      "Sure you did. So have lots of other people, because we can't stand the thought of miracles taking place - miracles that we can't explain by our logical minds," Fsther James said.

      Michael switched back to tithing. "But back to your homily. You told the folks that the more they give to the Lord, through our church, the more they would have ... something like that."

      "Yeah, that's close," Father James agreed. "You want to know how it works. Well, as I said earlier, I don't know how it works. I just know it has worked for me for the past 50 years."

      "What if you give everything to the Lord?" Michael asked.

      "Try it sometime," Father James shot back. "There's an old boy down in Texas some years ago - I believe he was a Baptist - gave 90 percent of his income to the church. He was a big industrialist type. As far as I know, he never starved as a result of it."

      Michael shook his head. "Doesn't make sense," he mumbled.

      Father James smiled, "I like to see you Jesuits squirm over things that don't make sense. Especially things we're supposed to believe." He winked at Michael, who couldn't quite suppress a smile.

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