This past Sunday, our parish gathered to watch the film Millions (2004). The film tells the story of two brothers who accidentally come into the possession of a bag with cash, and what they each want to do with the money. The younger brother, still reeling from their mother’s death, regularly has visions of and conversations with saints, where he discusses the moral issues of how to handle the money. My favorite scene is between the younger brother and St. Peter. As St. Peter is talking to him about miracles, he tells him about the Feeding of the Five Thousand story. But this Peter’s version is a little different than the one we all know.
In the film, Peter says what actually happened that day was not really a miracle. A boy showed up with some sardines to share with the hungry crowd, and Jesus had the disciples pass them around. But when each person received the plate, they did not take any, because they had been hiding a stash for themselves. So, each person took their own stash out, and ate that food instead. Some people even had a little extra, and so they added a small amount to the plate. Peter argues there was no magic because the food did not actually multiply. But as he talks the story through, he confesses perhaps a miracle did happen – the miracle of people sharing their food; the miracle of a once stingy people, hoarding their own food, to a tentatively generous people, willing to share.
What St. Peter was cheekily alluding to was a miracle not of substance, but of changed behavior. Though the scene is meant to be playful, I have been thinking about that distinction ever since. We are in a time of stingy hoarding; perhaps humans always are. But in the face of our selfishness, I often find myself praying for a miracle – for God to act dramatically to change these awful patterns in our society. But perhaps the miracle we need today is not a miracle of substance, but a miracle of changed behavior. Perhaps we need little boys with plates of shared sardines to inspire us to let go of our own death grips on security, and open up our hands and hearts to generosity. Perhaps when we open up, others will see works of miracle in our simple changes of behavior.
What are you hoarding this week on which you can loosen your grip? Who are the children you have been ignoring who have something inspirational to share with you? How might you slowly begin to let go of your posture of inward protection and look around your community to see who might need you and your open arms? I invite you to be open to a miracle of changed behavior this week, and to let me know what ripple effects you see. Maybe St. Peter is right about us, even today!