Is the story of the loaves and the fishes really a miracle, as in a supernatural experience where Jesus literally changes a little bit of food into a whole bunch? I heard a priest tell me it was just about “sharing.”

Miracles require faith and faith has no proof. Catholic tradition holds that Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes (the only miracle told by all four Gospels: Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-13) was indeed a supernatural event, revealing Jesus as the Bread of Life. In the Old Testament, God fed the Israelites in the desert with “bread from heaven” – manna (Exodus 16). It was believed that this miracle would be repeated by the Messiah (the anointed one) when he came. By multiplying the loaves (and fish), Jesus provides for the needs of the people as the Father once did. It is no surprise, then, that the people want to anoint Jesus as their king following this miracle. It is natural for us humans to seek an explanation for all things and we sometimes tend to try to explain away that which cannot be fully explained. The priest who told you that the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was “just about sharing” was trying to do just that. However, we need to remember that we come to know Jesus through what we call the Paschal Mystery – his life, teaching, suffering, death, and Resurrection. A mystery, in biblical thinking, is not something to be solved but something to enter in to. It is not something to explain but something to know. We cannot fully explain Jesus’ miracles, but we can come to know him through them. Faith calls us to ponder and contemplate these miracles, not to try to solve or explain them.