18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): The Fullness of the Kingdom
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
Each Gospel reading for the last four weeks has been filled with parables. Our heads have been swimming in parables! In fact last week, in considering the parable of the Kingdom of God like a net that was thrown into the sea...we thought, we're swimming in it, right now! How can this be?
This week, Jesus is through with parables (for now). He is finished talking. Now he acts. Jesus performs a miracle. Miracles, we know, are signs of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God--the kingdom we are swimming in right now--makes itself fully known through Jesus. Miracles show us the Kingdom of God.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “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.”
Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
The Gospel makes it very clear that the disciples have an impossibly tiny amount of food to feed a ridiculously large crowd.
And he said, “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. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
A miracle, yes. Marvellous? Oh, yes. But what does this mean? What does it matter? What does this miracle show us about the Kingdom of God?
Let's look at the signs:
all ate and were filled
Is there hunger in the fullness of the Kingdom of God? No. All are filled.
they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full
So much more than is needed. Abundance.
How can this be? It seems impossible, but it happens. Where does all this abundance come from? What does Jesus show us?
he looked up to heaven
Of course, it comes from God. God is the source of all that is good; God of abundance. And God gives it freely to all.
The prophet Isaiah knew this about God, too. In the first reading this Sunday, we hear Isaiah speak the great invitation he heard from God:
“Everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!”
I wonder if the crowd in the Gospel thinks of these words as they eat their fill of bread and fish that they did not pay for. Food that is freely given.
“Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
“Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.”
How much God desires that all will live fully! How much God loves us!
Listen, God says.
Come, God says.
You will be fed. You will live.
The people who gather around Jesus listen to him and come to him, and they are fed. Jesus brings the fullness of the Kingdom to the crowd of people.
But there is still hunger in our world. People starve. People in our own cities and towns do not know if they will have enough to eat today. Where is the abundance?
People hunger to be accepted. People hunger to be understood. People hunger for love. How can we be swimming in the Kingdom?
Will there be a time when there will be no more hunger? Will there come a time when all will be filled?
Isaiah heard God say,
“I will make with you an everlasting covenant”
Everlasting. A promise that will last until all are filled. When the Kingdom is complete. At Parousia.
The people whom Jesus feeds in today's Gospel will become hungry again. But they have had a taste of the fullness of the Kingdom. A taste of Parousia.
Can we have a taste of that fullness today? Can we live this miracle today? Where can we go to find the abundance of God's love and have our inner hunger satisfied?
If miracles are actions of Jesus, let's look at his actions:
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...
Four of those actions Jesus repeats at the Last Supper:
Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples... (Matthew 26:26)
Repeating these four actions, Jesus forever ties together these two moments in time, and he points towards another moment in time.
The fifth action we see whenever the other four actions are repeated:
We live the miracle of Jesus when we go to Mass. We participate in the everlasting covenant when we receive the Eucharist. We taste the fullness of the Kingdom when we eat this bread, the bread that is his body, the sign of his abundant love for us.
But how does this help us? How does this hasten the time of Parousia?
Through the bread that is holy, we are drawn into relationship with Jesus.
How can we respond to this great invitation of abundance?
We are swimming in the Kingdom already, but it is not yet complete. We get a taste of the fullness of the love of God, and we desire more, we desire for all to be full. Together with all people, with all of Creation, we have a goal. Together we wait and we hope, together we work and we pray: