Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Picnic With Jesus

Reflections on the Readings

July 26, 2015 - Year B
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Picnic With Jesus

Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then 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. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.

I hope you are having a good summer. This summer I reconnected with family and friends in southern Indiana and our family vacation included visits to historic Williamsburg and Yorktown walking in the footsteps of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. At Virginia Beach the waves of the Atlantic Ocean licked our feet while the vibrant sound of wave after wave coming to shore reminded me of the words of John the Revelator: …and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 

So my roots, deeply entrenched in Hoosier soil, got an overdue visit. Our visit to historic Virginia reminded me that the great ideas that birthed this nation should never be surrendered. And while my feet sank into the sand at Virginia Beach my soul was soothed by the sound of the waves chasing each other to see which one would reach the shoreline first.

Summertime activities also include cooking out and having picnics. Well, today, the gospel is about a really big summertime picnic. Just the number of hungry men was about five thousand. Counting women and children the number attending this picnic is several thousand. I personally would panic, but not Jesus. He knew what he would do. The ministry of hospitality went into full speed. The disciples invited the huge crowd to get comfortable and find a place to sit down. Everyone was invited to stay. Isn't that just like Jesus? After all, hospitality is the very heart of Christianity. As scripture reminds us, we are encouraged to not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

A little boy offered his lunch of two fish portions and five barley loaves. We all do well to have more of the kind of faith that child demonstrated. Didn't Jesus say, "Except you have the faith of a little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven?" I'm too often reserved; too often reluctant to let Jesus in and have his way in me and with me and with my stuff. I want to have more of the faith of that little boy who didn't wonder if he would have anything to eat if he gave his lunch to Jesus. Maybe what we are supposed to learn here is that little is much in the hands of Jesus. Also, nothing given to Jesus is ever wasted. 

Any way, Jesus gave the best picnic ever. And from this demonstration of hospitality of food and fellowship we should learn that a church community should be more like a picnic, a community of sharing with one another, where the common language is the love of Christ and the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace is evident. For together we embrace one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all through all and in all. Amen. 

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:

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