18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Abundant Life
(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.)
For the past few weeks, we have listened to Jesus teaching the people in parables so that we could think about what the Kingdom of God is like. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus is finished teaching. Now he shows us what the Kingdom of God is like.
At the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus is rowing away in a boat by himself. He wants some quiet time alone. But the people in the town figure out where he is going. They know the place. It is a very quiet spot because it is quite a ways from town, but they know how to get there by walking the paths. Women and men and children drop whatever they are doing, and make their way together to the quiet place. Jesus takes his time rowing the boat. It takes a lot of energy and he is not in a hurry. When Jesus finally gets to the quiet spot,
he saw a great crowd
I wonder why so many people left whatever they were doing to go and see Jesus? They want so much to be with him, don't they?
Have you ever been in a very large crowd? Perhaps you can remember a time when you were with your family at a fair or at a sports event. When there are lots of people in one place--a crowd--it can be uncomfortable and sometimes a little scary. We don't always know where we can go to the bathroom. We don't want to get separated from the people we know. And usually there is a lot of waiting. We never know how long we are going to have to wait to get a drink when we are thirsty or food when we are hungry.
When the disciples come to Jesus in the evening, they are worried about the crowd of people. They say to Jesus,
“This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
They know it is going to be a long walk back to the town for these people. They all need to eat. This is a big problem. Jesus needs to tell them to go now. It is going to take a lot of time for all these people to get the food they need.
But Jesus says,
“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
Jesus knows the people want to be near him, and he knows that they can be fed, right here, right now. He knows the disciples can do this. But do they know it?
They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
Five loaves of bread and two fish? To feed a whole crowd of people? It is not enough. If I was in that crowd, I would be getting worried about where and when I was going to get some food.
But Jesus knows what the Kingdom of God is like.
He knows it is like a mustard seed--so incredibly tiny--that someone took and planted in his field...
He knows it is like a merchant who finds the One Pearl and sells all that he has to buy it...
“Bring them here to me.”
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
Delicious warm bread baked just that day and salty fish that flakes in your mouth--everyone gets food to eat. All of the men, all of the women, and all of the children. Everyone who has been listening. Everyone who has been running around playing. Everyone who has come to Jesus gets food to eat to fill their bellies. There is enough! Enough for all the people, and they even have twelve baskets of food left over! There is not just enough food, but more than enough.
More than enough? That's abundance!
Remember what Jesus says about the Good Shepherd?
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)
Food for everyone and no one hungry. Abundant life.
Jesus knows what the Kingdom of God is like.