Tabgha is the name of a site on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus appeared after his resurrection (John 21), and where he earlier multiplied loaves and fishes to feed the crowds gathered to hear him teach. The present church preserves within some of its walls remains of a church that stood here in the late 300s. When that earlier church was excavated in 1936, archeologists discovered a mosaic around a block of naked limestone. The mosaic depicted two fish and a basket of loaves. Ancient accounts identify the block of limestone as the place where Jesus broke and blessed the bread that was multiplied and shared with the crowds. The new, modern church preserves this rock below its altar. Of course it is important to say that the exact place where the miracle took place is uncertain. The poet, Mary Oliver, known and loved for her poems on landscape and animals, and what is right in front of our eyes, begs us to pay attention and notice. The following poem is rather different only in the sense that it is about the miracle of loaves and fish which we find in the gospels. That story can be found in John’s gospel chapter 6. It is one of my all time favorites. Listen carefully to how Oliver tells the story. Please pause and ponder and celebrate as together we accept the miracle. This miracle is more than loaves and fish it is about our very existence, the greatest miracle of all.
Logos by Mary Oliver
Why worry about the loaves and fishes? If you say the right words, the wine expands. If you say them with love and the felt ferocity of that love and the felt necessity of that love, the fish explode into many. Imagine him, speaking, and don’t worry about what is reality, or what is plain, or what is mysterious. If you were there, it was all those things. If you can imagine it, it is all those things. Eat, drink, be happy. Accept the miracle. Accept, too, each spoken word spoken with love. Prayer: God of miracle and meaning, God of surprise and delight, surround me with your love and make of me what I cannot make myself. I hear your whisper, gently calling me to follow. I hear your voice gently forgiving me all that needs forgiven. In all the complexities of life which I cannot understand, help me to accept the miracle. Urge me, I pray, to remind others that they too are wrapped up in this same miracle. For today I am thankful and for tomorrow I am hopeful. May this be always so. Amen.