18th Sunday in Ordinary time
August 2, 2020
“When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat
to a deserted place by himself.”
Who among us hasn’t wanted to get away from it all once in a while? Jesus was no different. Surrounded by people, almost all of whom wanted something from him, Jesus decided to get into a boat and take off for another part of the lake. It appears he also left the disciples behind.
Jesus needed to be by himself for a time. Being alone can be a period either of loneliness, which is negative, or solitude, which is positive. The scriptures regularly show Jesus carving out times to pray and be alone with God the Father, which was in fact essential to his ministry. Each of us, somehow, in some way, must find some quality time with God. We do this communally by attending Mass (whether in person or via livestream), and individually in our personal prayer times. If even Jesus could not make it without down-time with God, how can I be any different?
Jesus was interrupted in his solitude. It is encouraging that even Jesus did not always succeed in his quest to be alone with God. The people had seen where Jesus’ boat was headed and followed around the shoreline on foot until they came to where Jesus was praying. Mother Teresa was once asked what she would do if a beggar came to the door and her community was at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Would she interrupt her prayer? She said that she would answer the door, as this would simply be the transferring of one form of Jesus’ presence, prayer, to that of Jesus present within the person whose need had presented itself at the door.
Jesus’ prayer leads to action. Jesus’ followers in this gospel are concerned because the vast crowd has arrived with little to eat. Jesus uses this “crisis” as a chance to teach the disciples something about the providence of God. He will take what little they have and multiply these few loaves and fishes to feed everyone present. In the same way, my prayer and solitude times, if they are real encounters with God, will necessarily lead to a great commitment to being Christ to others.
These days especially we may feel we do not have enough or that we are inadequate to the tasks God has given us in life, but God can multiply our small efforts to produce something truly great when we bring them to him in prayer and a lively faith. When we make time for prayer, the Lord also assists us in our trials. Father Gary