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Jesus and the loaves - Carol Gatt

“Helping others will make us all happy, better people.” Photo: Reuters/Juan Medina

“Helping others will make us all happy, better people.” Photo: Reuters/Juan Medina

My mother taught me to return the change when Tony the shopkeeper gave me extra change by mistake. She made us think how another child felt when he lost his toy and we found and took it. So we returned it. In the shadow of her upbringing, breaking her back while strengthening mine, I rode the tides. From this, I want to remind myself and you how crucial it is to take materialistic interests to be less than our morals and values.

A story goes that Jesus and some of his companions were travelling away from a village, somewhere in blessed Palestine. They got the munchies, and boys will be boys, hunger gets them and they start asking Jesus to stop and get food. Jesus collects what money they had and sends one of them to the nearest village to get some food.

This guy goes to the village and realises he could only afford three loaves of bread. He thinks to himself: “If I go back with three loaves, and we are 10 to 12 grown-up men [at least], what will be my share?” A quarter of a loaf will not satisfy him, obviously. Immediately with this thought, he eats one and goes back to Jesus and his companions with two loaves.

Jesus took the bread, looks at the man with his beautiful, piercing dark eyes, and asks him: “Who ate the third loaf?” The man, stunned, told him: “Honestly, I bought two!” He was thinking: I ate it alone, no one could know.

Jesus doesn’t argue with the man. They walk on and they reach a place where animals could be hunted, and the companions hunted a deer and prepared it for a BBQ. They cooked it, they ate, till only bones remained. Jesus then called the man, with a full tummy this time having eaten well, to stand beside him.

By the will of God, Jesus gives back life to the pile of bones in front of the companions. The man, awe-struck, is watching.

Jesus then asked him: “Who ate the third loaf? I am asking you by the one who gave life to the animal.”

The man said: “I only bought two.”

 Look how this man is digging his own grave deeper. He could’ve owned up coming back from the village and told Jesus he had been so hungry, he couldn’t resist the ftira. Now, he could own up, seeing the miracle. Yet, he persists, lost.

This is us, knowing we are wrong but ploughing on because it is the other that is affected, oppressed, not us.

The group travels on. They reach a river that is flooded and too deep to cross on foot. There were no boats and they badly needed to get to the other side. They all walk on water, all of them, the thief, the believers, Jesus, they walk on the water as if it were a comfortable road.

Another chance for hearts to tremble. Again, Jesus calls the man and asks him: “I ask you by the One who made us walk on water, who ate the third loaf?” The man was feeling the heat under his non-existent collar, drowning in the stress of guilt.

Look how deep in he is now, third chance gone. He replies: “Honestly there were only two loaves.” His grave is sealed.

Jesus and his companions arrive at their destination, where Jesus turns for the last time to the man and piles up in front of him three piles of dirt. Jesus prays to God and a miracle happens again: the three piles of dirt turn to gold right in front of the thief’s eyes.

We can change the tide because we are the waters

Jesus then told him: “One pile is for you, one pile is for me, and the last is for the one who ate the third loaf.” The man jumped, honest at last, and shouted out: “I was the one who ate the bread!” Greed made him honest, greed made him say the right thing. Jesus said: “All three piles are for you, but you can’t join us anymore and we part ways here.”

The man was so happy with his piles of gold, he didn’t even feel sorry for losing the companionship of the best man on earth. He wasn’t even sad that he had just parted with his chance of heaven, his stomach full of dust, the gold.

Here in Malta, we are being tested just like this man. Will we help out the people fleeing war and drought, poverty and abuse or will we see them drown and only give a helping hand when we see the piles of gold? 

Joseph Muscat said refugees were actually good for Malta. Really? And if they aren’t, are we ready to prefer the material and not share a loaf of crunchy Maltese bread with a family of desperately hungry people?

We see the destruction of society’s safety nets these days. And we see the doctors go on strike, teachers go on strike, pilots go on strike... a long list. And no one is bothered to support them. Until and unless we, me, are affected and then you, I, will see that no one is bothered with my rights and my issues.

We need to return to being a society of connected individuals. We need to care. Care for those beyond our shores so that our government cannot take part in greedy wars, care for those among us who are new and need fair deals not slave conditions, care for those like us, who work back-breaking jobs and then get treated to below-subsistence wages.

We need to care for the trees and nature before we are called to eat piles of dust. And we need to reconnect with God and religion.

I am not a Christian anymore, I am Muslim, but I still learn from Jesus. I think we all need to, to get our moral compass working again. Jesus is a prophet in my book, the Quran, and his lessons, as you can see, are valid to you and to me today.

I call on us all to revive our good values, our morals, and value good before we value money. Helping others will make us all happy, better people. Letting others drown, whether in poverty, in corruption or in the Mediterranean, will affect us all. We are all able to do something. To do nothing is not an option.

Get to know a foreigner, start saying “bonġu” to others again, write to your local council, the minister who runs from your district, move a finger on your mobile and talk to those in power. We can change the tide because we are the waters.

This is why Jesus told the thief to leave them. He could go on and corrupt all the companions. He was poison in the water, either to increase his followers till the waters were all poisoned, or he could have owned up, which he didn’t.

We need to own up, our leaders need to own up, and we need to change the course of our decisions.

Carol Gatt is a wife and dedicated mother.

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