Going to the Deserted Place
Greetings on this the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: IS 55:1-3; PS 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18; RM 8:35, 37-39; MT 14:13-21
Summer of Our Discontent
- 1964, Meridian, Mississippi
- 2020, Anywhere, USA
In 2020 we mourn the loss of several Civil Rights leaders…
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The Gospel reading today starts with a rather startling point.
John the Baptist was murdered and Jesus withdrew.
At first glance you might be very disconcerted by this reaction.
Why? Well, among many things we mourn the dead, we have the liturgy of intercession for the dead and those mourning them. Even this Wednesday I will preside over a Funeral Outside of Mass for the twin purpose of (1) Intercession and invocation of the Mercy of God; and (2) Prayer of supplication for the grieving that in both purposes we may know the love of God in the paschal mystery and glorious resurrection.
But the death of John the Baptist wasn’t a simple death. It was an execution. John, having challenged King Herod, was beheaded.
The death of John is the most radical rejection of the baptism of repentance – killing the messenger.
Jesus withdrew to the deserted place and it became a great nonverbal message in the gospel. It is the message that can reach those guilty of murder.
The Message of John
Hardly anyone misses the message of John the Baptist. John preached the baptism of repentance. John called everyone who approached him to consider their actions and the commandments and make some changes. The gospel of Luke gives a really detailed account of these types of fruitful encounters.
John prepared the way of the Lord. Or more specifically. John helped us to prepare for the Lord.
The Deserted Place
When Jesus withdrew the crowd heard of it. They followed him.
Jesus went by boat – a straight line. The people walked/wandered through hill and dale to get to him.
They left behind any and all comforts, food, weapons, and all their possessions.
They knew something about Jesus was special. They wanted him.
In fact the point is that they valued nothing but him and his miraculous ways.
They wanted to enter the deserted place because that is where he is.
Where is the Deserted Place
This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.
The disciples were worried. Of course it was for the ordinary needs of the people. Very much appreciated and expected.
Jesus asks them to look beyond. Beyond the body, the wealth, the possessions.
Surrender the five loaves and two fish to him.
Surrender in the deserted place.
And be filled with every good, thing, God’s being.
The Most Deserted Place
In the center of your soul.
In the center of your soul Jesus has ‘retreated’. He rests there waiting for your return. Taking your attention away from possession and the belly.
There you will find Jesus who will restore you, feed you, speaking to you.
Go to the deserted place. Find everything.
Peace be with you,