Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Meal

He undid his little cloth and looked them as they lay there: five little brown loaves, two little silver-grey fish. They were his, his mother had packed them for him only that morning, telling him not to lose them or he would go hungry. And he was hungry now. He had followed the crowd way out of town, then sat for hours and listened to the Teacher, while the sun blazed down on them out a harsh blue sky. He was rather amazed at himself actually; normally he was the last one to want to sit listening to a rabbi talk on and on. There were so many better things for a boy to do on such a lovely day, and now that he was older his father didn’t give him as many free days as before to go out into the hills and simply be a boy, away from the workshop and learning his father’s business. But then, he had never heard anyone before talk the way this Teacher did – and he couldn’t get enough of it.

But now he was faced with a dilemma. He was hungry, as his mother would have said, he was a growing boy and always hungry. And yet, could he sit here and simply feed himself while everyone else went hungry? He twisted the edges of the cloth in his fingers and wondered. The teacher had been talking about generosity, about loving others as much as yourself, and it had all made such marvellous sense when he listened. But now, did it really mean he should give away his own food?

He looked down at the loaves and fishes, nestled on the nearly-white cloth that had bound them. It really wasn’t very much. In fact if he gave it away, it would just mean that someone else had it while everyone else still went without. And there were just so many everyone-elses.  He looked over at the Teacher, who seemed to be having quite a discussion with His closest friends. That was when he had his great idea. The Teacher was standing there, looking tired, and He didn’t seem to have anything to eat. What if he gave his loaves and fishes to the Teacher?

He approached tentatively. There were so many grown men standing around there. But one looked a little friendlier than the others, so he went up to him and offered him the food. “I thought the Teacher might like this,” he said.

The man looked delighted and brought him, and the food, to the Teacher. As long as he lived, he would remember what happened next. The Teacher accepted his gift with a smile that lit up his whole heart, then, having organised the crowd to sit on the grass, held up the food towards heaven and gave thanks for it. Then, as the boy watched, his eyes growing wider and wider, the Teacher’s friends started handing out his bread and fish. It was a meal for one person, maybe a dozen if they had only a tiny mouthful each, yet somehow the food just seemed to keep on coming .. and coming .. somebody counted over five thousand men in the crowd, yet all were fed abundantly. Somebody offered him some, and he ate it with amazement. His mother was a good cook, but no barley loaves ever tasted like this, as if they had been seasoned with the very fragrance of heaven. And at the end there were twelve baskets left over. How was he ever going to explain to his mother that the food she had sent him off with, only that morning, had been the material of a miracle that had turned his whole world inside out?

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