Gathering the Fragments

Gathering the Fragments © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +9, Year B (July 29): John 6.1-21

He told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over,
so that nothing may be lost.”
―John 6.12

It is part of the miracle: how Jesus, with such intention, cares for the fragments following the feast. He sees the abundance that persists, the feast that remains within the fragments. We might think the marvel of the story is that there is enough for everyone. And yet for Jesus, enough does not seem to be enough. There is more: a meal that depends on paying attention to what has been left behind, on turning toward what has been tossed aside.

Call it the persistence of wonder, or the stubbornness of the miraculous: how Christ casts his circle around the fragments, will not loose his hold on what is broken and in pieces. How he gathers them up: a sign of the wholeness he can see; a foretaste of the banquet to come.

Blessing the Fragments

Cup your hands together,
and you will see the shape
this blessing wants to take.
Basket, bowl, vessel:
it cannot help but
hold itself open
to welcome
what comes.

This blessing
knows the secret
of the fragments
that find their way
into its keeping,
the wholeness
that may hide
in what has been
left behind,
the persistence of plenty
where there seemed
only lack.

Look into the hollows
of your hands
and ask
what wants to be
gathered there,
what abundance waits
among the scraps
that come to you,
what feast
will offer itself
from the fragments
that remain.

For a previous reflection on Matthew’s version of this story, click the image or title below.

A Gracious Plenty

And also see this related reflection, which includes “Blessing of Enough.”

[To use the image “Gathering the Fragments,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

21 Responses to “Gathering the Fragments”

  1. Maureen Says:

    Such a lovely blessing, Jan, especially the opening stanza.

  2. Sue Mannshardt Says:

    Fragments, pieces, shattered lives…I was in middle of responding to your absolutely phenomenally intuitive insight to the text, and the amazing blessing, “what feast will offer itself from the fragments that remain”…when cousins of our next door neighbor came by to tell us that her son, who also lived next door, committed suicide this weekend…my own fragments seem so whole and so encircled by the loving gathering up by comparison to these folks who know little or nothing of that hope. I pray our neighbor, this broken mom, can one day find/know of such a feast from the fragments of her life.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Oh, Sue—I am so sorry about this news. Thank you for letting me know. I am sending prayers and blessings for this mother and she grieves the death of her son. May she someday, somehow, know peace in the midst of these awful pieces. Blessings to you as well. Thank you again for your words.

  3. Robert Doll Says:

    Jan, thank you for your words about fragments. I have just returned from the Youth Gathering where with over 33,000 youth we spoke about fragmented lives and the amazing ways God has used those lives to tear down walls that divide and to feed many who thirst and hunger. How remarkable that what might otherwise be cast off becomes so essential that Christ himself gathers up the pieces.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Many kind thanks, Robert, and welcome home! Wow, it sounds like it was an amazing gathering, and powerful words for the youth to receive. Amen to all you said—I am constantly amazed by how God persists in using ALL the pieces, even the pieces (of our lives, of our communities) that we resist or that seem useless. I’ve come to think of God as the consummate recycler, able to transform and incorporate everything into a greater whole in ways I could never imagine on my own. Blessings to you, to the youth, and to all who have ministered to them. Thank you again!

  4. Joanna Tipple Says:

    I was browsing through Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace” earlier today…I had read it a while ago but I think needed to hear more and again about God’s grace. As I read Jan’s reflection on the text for this Sunday – I can’t help but think that Grace is the foundation or maybe the canvas upon which this (and maybe just all of the Gospel) is written/drawn upon.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Thank you, Joanna! I really appreciate your words about the amazing gift of grace. May you know the grace of God in abundance in your life. Blessings and gratitude to you!

  5. Heather Albinger Says:

    Here is a wonderful song inspired by the fragments left over. It is called Gather the Fragments by Heather Lee’s on her album “Into the Light”

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Heather, thank you for this link to a beautiful song! Very grateful to you for sharing it. Blessings to you.

  6. Fr. Fred Ball Says:

    Thank you, Jan, for this lovely reflection. I’d like to incorporate the “Blessing the Fragments” portion into the final blessing at our Mass this week, inviting the people to hold their hands “open to welcome what comes” from God’s abundance and open to share that abundance wherever they go.

    Blessings on you in your work!

    Fr. Fred Ball
    Little Rock, AR

  7. Pastor Coop Says:

    THank you. The cupped hand will be illustrated tomorrow as I preach this text. Your compassion, insight and creativity are a blessing. Stay focused and faithful.

  8. aNna rybaT Says:

    thank you Jan for sharing your art and your thoughts about being an artist of the Creator! am so impressed! your images and words speak to me in a way that i can relate to, and in a way that i have been searching for, to help relate to other creator/artists. peace, love, joy to you friend!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Anna, thanks so much for your words and for your lovely blog! I am grateful. Many blessings to you as you continue to create.

  9. David Herbert Says:

    I have nominated you for a very Inspiring Blog Award. The nomination is at

  10. donna leavitt Says:

    Dear Jan
    You don’t know me, but I found your wonderful books, poetry, art ..just after my son died of an overdose. Your words have helped with the incredible pain, your words have brought peace. I’ve missed you and hope that you will return soon.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Donna, thank you so much for your words. Please know that they are a tremendous gift to me. I’m so sorry for the death of your son, and thankful for the presence of peace in the midst of the incredible pain. I wish you deep blessings as you continue to heal, and I pray that you will have everything you need in each step of your path.

      Thank you for missing me! I’ve been traveling a good bit this summer with retreats and other events and am just recently home from the last of my travels this season. I’m back in the studio now and am looking forward to being present here at The Painted Prayerbook as autumn unfolds. Will have something new here soon!

      Thank you again, Donna. Deep peace and many blessings to you.

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