For a number of weeks, we will be reading bread of life discourse from the Gospel of John. These are rich stories which have lots of symbolic meaning to help us dive more deeply into the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist that we gather to celebrate every Sunday. We start with this story of Jesus feeding the 5000, a story that can be found in all four of our gospels. John gives us a unique description of the story about how the disciple Andrew explains how a child, a little boy, has offered his lunch of five loaves and two fish with the commentary that surely it could not feed this crowd. I remember once reading this gospel to a group of children at church camp. We were having a discussion and one little girl asked a question that surprised me. She wondered if this little boy, after offering his lunch, did it come back to him, did he get a lunch that day. I asked the girl what she thought, and she said she thought Jesus would want the boy to have a lunch after helping feed all those people. I think this story reminds us of the gift of our children and that they truly are an important part of our faith community and that they minister to us as well. I am struck by this little girl’s question though, because she has an important insight into this gospel. This boy did take a risk to offer his lunch without knowing what the end result would be. This is the miracle of generosity. It also shows us, I think, how important childlike faith is to Jesus. If we think of children in their innocence, they have rich imaginations. A lot of times they look up to adults and think their aunt, uncle, cousin, or parent can do extraordinary things. Perhaps this child in today’s gospel who saw some of the miracles that Jesus did had more expectation of the miracle Jesus could do with his lunch. This child leads us to stir our expectations and imagination of the possibilities Jesus can do.
Today from the book of Kings we hear the prophet Elisha that reminds us that to be a prophetic people we need to have the risk and imagination and generosity, like this little boy, to believe that God can do extraordinary things in our lives with what seems small when we respond with a generous heart. The Eucharist we celebrate wants to draw us into the mystery of God’s love; when we tend to be so pragmatic, the meal wants to give us the enchantment of a child, to captivate our imaginations in such a way that we see reality differently.
We, tragically, live in a world where too many go hungry and lack the basic resources of life. The Eucharist invites us to have the generosity of this little child; to make us brave enough to take a risk; to respond generously; that the Lord wants to feed the multitudes physically, emotionally, and spiritually; that the miracle is to see the extraordinary in an ordinary, unselfish yes; that what the little boy teaches us is the miracle. I think the little girl from church camp is right–he got his lunch back.
I would like to share a poem called Logos from Mary Oliver on the Extraordinary in the ordinary that we celebrate at Sunday Eucharist.
Why wonder about the Loaves and Fishes?
If you say the right words the wine expands.
If you say them with love
And the felt ferocity of that love
And felt necessity of that love
The fish explode into many
Imagine him, speaking,
And don’t worry about what is reality, or what is plain, or what is mysterious.