Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The mass as a meal
Points to note
Actually, the image stated above is not exactly accurate. Liturgists agree that the feeding of the five thousand does not constitute a mass. In fact, some liturgists even contend that no incident involving Jesus, including the Last Supper, can constitute a mass: The mass is a sacrifice and it cannot be a sacrifice if the victim is still presiding!
The feeding of the five thousand, though, contains some elements of the mass. In particular, it highlights what is known as the four liturgical actions: take, bless, break and give; which is central to the celebration at mass. A wider discussion of the mass is invited.
Acclamation before the Gospel
Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace on the earth and glory in the highest heavens!
Explain that Jesus has been teaching the people: remember the parables of the past weeks? Now, he is tired.
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All: Glory to you O Lord
When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat on a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So, as he stepped shore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.
When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go off to the villages to buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.” “But,” they answered, “All we have is five loaves and two fish.” “Bring them here to me.” He said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessings. And breaking the loaves, he handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining, twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.
This is the Word of the Lord
Identify those children who have already celebrated their Holy Communion. You may wish to use them to help lead the discussions.
Have you been to a birthday party? Do you enjoy it? Let the children talk about the birthday parties that they have been in and enjoyed.
Is there a big table at the birthday party? Is there a clean and pretty tablecloth on the table? What do you find on that table? Lots of food. What takes the pride of place on the table? The birthday cake. Let the children talk about their favourite food at birthday parties and the best cake they have ever seen.
Who is the most important person at the birthday party? The birthday boy/girl. Is he/she the only person needed to make a party? Get them to imagine if they have a party with all the favourite food and cake but there is no one to share it with or to play with. Without the guests, we cannot have a party.
Do you know that the mass is a meal? Draw parallels with the birthday party. At church, there is a table (the altar) with a table cloth on it (altar cloth). The pride of place on the table is the bread and wine.
Focus more on the people. Just like in a birthday party, we have someone who must be there for it to be a mass. The priest. Discuss also about the people. Imagine if only the priest turns up for mass and no one else, would that be a mass? Actually, it would be a canonically valid mass, but common sense would tell us that it is not complete without the community being present.
Link it back to the reading where Jesus had a meal with a lot of people. Without the people, the glory of God cannot be seen. Discuss why people are so important to make a meal complete. We do not eat just because we are hungry. We also take the opportunity of the eating environment to socialise and strengthen our bonds with each other. In children terms, to make friends and to play. Mealtime is always more fun the bigger the crowd.
One final point: do we invite people who are close to us or people we hardly know to our parties? In the church, we attend mass with people who we know to have the same beliefs about God as we do. These people are part of our Christian family.