Today's Gospel reading even shows Jesus telling his disciples to take some time away from everyone else. They are so busy from the pressing crowds that they haven't even had time to eat. So they get in a boat and they begin to head for a deserted place. A place of rest. A place of recovery. That's important from time to time isn't it? I remember how relaxing it was last year to go on a silent retreat with some of my Diaconate brothers. To get away from all the technology and pressing needs of my life, and to just sit on the riverbank and listen to God speak to my heart. It's tempting to want that for every day, is it not? Every day to be one of joy, contemplation, relaxation.
Except in the Gospel they never get to the deserted place. By the time they get there all the crowds have already found out where they were going, and have gone there ahead of them. Jesus doesn't react the way we might. "Turn the boat around! I'm so tired of these people following me everywhere!" Celebrities have been known to punch cameramen in the face for their constant intrusions, and most of the time I empathize with the celebrity not the cameraman. When the 'paparazzi' of Jesus time show up, he instead has a different response.... his heart was moved with pity for them.
Notice the entire Gospel is about Jesus worrying about everyone else. He didn't leave the first crowd because there was too much going on... he left it out of worry for his disciples. Come away and rest awhile. Then when he sees the crowd seeking, again his heart is moved with pity for them. Never once does he think of himself. That is the challenge isn't it? For me to stop thinking of my needs, my relaxation, my wants... and to instead think of others first. I pray that St. Francis prayer every morning:
That I may not seek so much to be consoled, as to console.
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved as to love.
That's the point of the Parent putting the mask on first. They aren't doing it for themselves. They are doing it so they can help the child. They are thinking of the child first. So yes, get away when you must.. but don't be gone long. There are those who need you. Those who are seeking Jesus and you may be the only Bible they ever read. Don't be upset when you get to your deserted place and find people already waiting... because that's when your heart should move with pity and say "How may I serve you first?" I am not there. I want to be... I want to be so poured out that nothing is left in me, but Him. Run to the Eucharist, that's where you find the strength to do that... Run to confession. Run to the Sacraments! Run to Christ! He'll lead you to the place where verdant pastures fill the horizon and water flows from sacred streams... and that is often right in the middle of our hectic lives.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."
A reflection for the readings for Mass on Saturday, February 4th, the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time. Lectionary 328