Sunday, July 29, 2018


A conversation overheard recently: 

“I've never seen such a crowd follow him." 
"Does he realize it's getting late?"
" You know, I don't think he's even noticed." 
"They must be getting hungry, I know I am." 
"But how could we possibly feed all these people?" 
"Just wait, if I know him, I bet he's got something up his sleeve.” 
“Like what?” 
“John, get Philip to ask him what he wants to do.” 

Just as Philip is about to whisper in his ear, Jesus says, "Hey, Philip, where should we buy bread for all these people?" Without missing a beat, Andrew picks up on Jesus' humor. “Well, there's a little boy here who brought five teeny rolls and a couple of fish maybe that will help.” “Perfect,” says Jesus. “Send him over. And have the people recline on the grass.” “Now what's he going to do?” says one of them. As the little boy comes to him, Jesus stoops down and whispers in his ear. The boy smiles, nods and hands Jesus his small basket. Jesus takes it, rises, looks up to heaven and gives thanks, and then starts handing out bread, and more bread and more bread and then the same with the fish, fish and more fish. The sun is setting. Everyone is famished, and they are enjoying every bite. There are a few muffled belches; chatter builds up again. Everyone is full. "Gather all the fragments,” says Jesus. “Let's not waste anything." Many of the people now begin filling up the laps of their robes and gathering up the edges; filling kerchiefs and head scarves and bags, excited to share their leftovers with those at home who couldn’t make it to hear Jesus this time.

So, it is that once upon a time a little boy's picnic lunch was transformed by a Word of love into a huge banquet with baskets and baskets of leftovers. This is not a story about what a friend's mother would refer to as a "genteel sufficiency," just enough. It is all about overflowing abundance and the immeasurability of God’s love and compassion. This is God's dream of the kingdom; for in this scene from John's Gospel we see that the reign of God has become a reality in Christ Jesus. In him heaven is wedded to earth forever, and a celebration is in order. God's Promised One is here to feed the poor and lowly with as much as they want. The Good Shepherd has brought his sheep to recline on the very green grass where he has prepared a banquet for them. And he has invited us to join them. 

Photograph by James O'Kane.