She looked over the table, rich with colorful flowers and plentiful foods, and declared: Abbondanza! In this way, my grandmother often began our holiday meals. She meant, in English, abundant, plentiful, and this word aptly described what she saw and felt. It was a feast for everyone there and enough for twice as many guests. She always felt God blessed her and she looked for every opportunity to show her gratitude. Her overflowing table was just one of those ways.
Jesus also assures us that he came that we may have life and have it in abbondanza, i.e., abundantly. He didn't mean a life filled only with good health, spacious homes, large bank accounts, or good looks. For Jesus, life is in abbondanza when we recognize and follow the will of his Father, who loves us and calls each of us by name – inviting us to follow only him. Then, Jesus shows us how we can do this.
Didn’t Jesus enjoy many meals with tax collectors and with those living on the edges of society? Didn’t he welcome prostitutes and lepers to sit with him? Didn’t Jesus perform his first miracle at a wedding turning water into wine? Didn’t Jesus make the wine plentiful to avoid any embarrassment the wedding couple and their families might have? Jesus gave life to the fullest in many ways.
Look at the Zacchaeus story from scripture. It must have been a wonderful moment for Zaccheus when Jesus saw him in the tree and said, “Zacchaeus come down for I must dine with you this evening.” It changed Zacchaeus' whole life. He made amends for all the injustices he committed against his neighbors.
Jesus arrived on this earth with much to give us and he wants to share it with all of us. When he told us to share our lives in some way with everyone, Jesus did it first. He looks to us to do the same. He even coaxes us with this directive: Don’t build barns to hide your gifts, share them. He told us: The measure you use to give to others will be the measure I use to give to you. Jesus invites us to follow him and he shows us all the ways possible. He gives life in abbondanza and he waits for us to continue that practice.
St. Francis de Sales encourages us to do what Jesus asks with these words:
We must try to love all equally, since Our Lord does not say, “Love those who are most virtuous,” but simply, “Love one another as I have loved you,” without excluding anyone, however imperfect.
As we live these present moments before us today, look for the many opportunities Jesus places in them to share some of our abbondanza. Try it!