When was the last time you withdrew to a lonely place apart? Jesus does numerous times throughout the four Gospels. One of my favorite passages in Scripture is where we are invited to this experience in the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 14.
The first thing revealed to us is a glimpse of Jesus’ human nature — His feelings. Upon hearing about the death of John the Baptist “He withdrew in a boat to a lonely place apart” (Matthew 14:3). Jesus was sad. He needed to mourn and no doubt pray. He needed to be alone. We can all relate to feelings of sorrow. Sadness. One consolation we can take from this is that when we are feeling sorrowful and sad Jesus can empathize with us. He too has been there. He knows what we are feeling.
It doesn’t take crowds very long to find Jesus. One can surmise He didn’t have too much time to himself because as he came to shore he saw a great throng. Jesus “had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). Jesus channels His sadness towards compassion. Rather than turn further inward and away from humanity He gives of himself. He empties himself in service.
It doesn’t stop there.
It is not merely human emotions of which we speak. We have before us the Son of God. He transforms the tragic into the divine and performs a miracle — the multiplication of the loaves. Even the disciples admitted, “Lord, this is a lonely place, send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves” (Matthew 14:15).
But why should they leave when the Bread of Life is in their midst? He took what little they had. He blessed. He broke. The disciples distributed…”and they all ate and were satisfied.”
And then, finally, He was alone. After dismissing the crowds and the disciples, “he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (14:23).
No doubt He was in Divine Communion with His Father. I enjoy contemplating how Holy and Spiritually enriching that was for Jesus. No doubt it was consoling juxtaposed to his mourning.
So too us. Can we channel our negative energy outward with compassion and give more in service? Then at the end of a long exhausting day fall into prayer and be held in God’s loving embrace, consolation, and love? Yes. We can. All we must do is find a lonely place apart and place ourselves in God’s omniscient presence.