17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Encounter with God
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
The Gospel reading last week ended with Jesus beginning to teach a great crowd of people. We know he loves to teach people about the Kingdom of God. He tells them parables so that they might know the Kingdom when they encounter it. In the Gospel for this Sunday, however, Jesus is not teaching about the Kingdom with words at all. Instead, Jesus shows us something about the Kingdom of God.
Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.
This detail tells us something important. Jesus and his disciples go up a mountain. We know that in the Bible, this is a sign for us. It is like a code. When we hear about people going up a mountain, we know there is going to be an encounter with God.
The disciples sit down with Jesus. In ancient times, this is what learning looks like. Students do not learn from teachers in schools. Instead, they sit and listen at the teacher's feet. Here on the mountain where there is an encounter with God, the disciples listen to Jesus speak. They listen to his Word. We wonder if the Word can be an encounter with God.
When Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
Here comes a great crowd again! Why does Jesus want to know where to buy bread? Philip must think it is an odd question. Why should they feed these people? Why is feeding the people Jesus' problem? Why is feeding the people the disciples' problem?
Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”
Wages are the money people are paid to work. Philip knows it would cost too much money to feed the great crowd of people. They do not have enough. The people might be hungry, and Jesus might want to feed them, but there is not enough money to buy food. Philip does not know how to solve this problem.
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
So there is a little bit of food available. A very little bit. Andrew knows that a little bit of food will not feed a whole crowd of people. Why does he even bother to mention it? There is not enough. The people might be hungry, and Jesus might want to feed them, but there is not enough food to feed them. Andrew does not know how to solve this problem.
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.
When Jesus tells the disciples to make the people sit down, the word in Greek is anapesein. This is what people do when they sit down to eat. Although there is not enough money, although there is not enough food, Jesus is preparing to feed them.
Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
Everyone gets bread, and everyone gets fish. They eat and are full. They are satisfied. There is no more hunger.
When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.
Philip and Andrew thought that there was not enough, but now everyone is fed and there are leftovers! At first there was not enough, but now there is even more than enough! This is abundance--more than enough for everyone.
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
The people know they have seen a sign. What sign have they seen?
The people have seen an end to hunger.
The people have seen "not enough" become an abundance.
The people have seen a sign of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
The disciples have seen a very little bit of food brought to Jesus.
The disciples have seen it placed in Jesus' hands to become food for all.
The disciples have had an encounter with God.
Are the disciples on the mountain with Jesus the only ones to encounter God in this way? Are they the only ones who see a very little bit of food brought to Jesus, placed in his hands and become food for all? Food that brings life, life in abundance? Can we not also encounter God in this way?
We have also seen a sign of the fullness of the Kingdom of God, haven't we? We sit down as Jesus prepares to feed our hunger for the Kingdom. We stretch out our hands for a very little bit of food that is actually an abundance. Indeed, it is food for all.