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8th Sunday after Trinity

We all sometimes feel the need to be alone. Away from people, away from it all. It’s quite natural really and it’s good for us. Life does get a bit hectic and noisy sometimes and it’s good to get that bit of space. For some, one of the upsides of lockdown was the quiet and the sense of withdrawing from busyness. For others it just felt lonely.

Sometimes we want be alone for a particular reason. Perhaps we’re sad. Maybe we need to think about where we’re going in our life. There might be a big decision to make and we don’t want too many things to distract us from our thoughts. We might even want to be with God. Talk to him. Listen to him.

Jesus liked to be alone sometimes. He often liked to withdraw and speak to his Father. He needed that, no more so than in today’s gospel reading from Matthew. Jesus has heard the news that his cousin John the Baptist has been beheaded. He might have felt sad, compassionate for John and those who were close to him. Including John’s disciples who had collected John’s body to bury and told Jesus the news.

We hear. ‘Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat, to a deserted place by himself.’

Yes, he needed to be alone and away from distractions. Assessing the situation, Jesus might have thought about the direction he himself was going in and what was in store. He might have needed his Father. To talk to him, to listen to him and simply just be with him. We all need that sometimes, even if we don’t realize that need.

For Jesus the calm wasn’t to last though as the crowds ‘followed him on foot from the towns.’ It was time to face the crowds again and the silence was over. Maybe the time alone was just enough to ‘feed’ Jesus. To give him the strength to do what he had to do.

Being alone isn’t necessarily a selfish act, all about me. It’s usually far from it. In the long term it probably enables us to give out more when we face the busy and hectic world again. Jesus certainly did. He had compassion for the crowd that came to him and he gave of himself to them, curing their sick. His disciples gave of themselves too. They were concerned for the crowds of people. So much so they came to Jesus in the evening and said. ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they might go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus says to them. ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ The disciples however felt they didn’t have much to give, only five loaves and two fish. The disciples wanted to do the best for the crowds but they seemingly didn’t have the faith in themselves or even in Jesus. But in Jesus things can happen, we could not have imagined. The great thing is he wants us to be involved with the things he does. Just like he involved the disciples. Jesus got them to bring the five loaves and two fish to him and then ordered the crowd to sit on the grass. From the silence of his retreat Jesus brought calm to the situation. ‘Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the crowds.’ All five thousand plus if we include the women and children, were filled with enough left over to fill twelve baskets.

The question might be to us. ‘Do we have the faith to really believe that story? Do we have the faith that with Jesus we can make a difference in the world?’ Be part of what Jesus is about?

The next time we’re alone. Once we’ve shut out the busy and the hectic, we might just want to talk to God. We might want to think about where we’re going next in our lives and what our life will look like. Not alone but as companions of Jesus. May our quiet time with God, feed us and give us the faith to give more of ourselves to the Father and the mission of his Son who is the bread of life. With Jesus may we help a world whose needs are satisfied in him.


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