Central Idea: It is when we realize how poor and hungry we are, that God can come and supply our need.

“When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”

We Christians tend to overlook the humanity of Jesus.  The divinity of Christ registers with most people, they find comfort and reassurance and strength in it. We like Jesus, the true God, strong, powerful, healing, courageous and composed. But Jesus is also true human, and we have a more difficult time imagining him weak, imagining him frightened, imagining him anything less that totally cool, calm and collected.  We simply cannot handle a Jesus who may not have his stuff totally together.  Part of this is caused by the gospels which obviously wanted to place Jesus in the best light, not wanting him to appear anything less than poised and tranquil. This is often reflected in Hollywood’s version of Jesus, seemingly sleepwalking through this world, positively unruffled by anything.

But human nature is a pesky, feisty, annoying thing.  It pokes out at odd places, refusing to stay hidden or dormant.  And so it is with Jesus in our gospel today.  You need to read between the lines, but his humanity, his questioning, his fear, and even a touch of his dread peeks around the corner and reveals a different, definitely human Jesus.  And it is snuck in through one curious line of Sacred Scriptures: Matthew 14:13.

“When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”

It doesn’t sound revolutionary.  It doesn’t feel all that threatening. But let’s dare to look at it a bit more closely, shall we?

The death of the Baptist had to have been both sobering and even terrifying to Jesus.  Beyond the fact of Jesus’ relationship and affection for John, (he was kin, after all) he was probably conscious of the fact that a similar fate might be in store for him.  This may not have been the absolute first inkling that Jesus had of his own Passion and Death, but John’s beheading had to have been very disconcerting. and in his human nature at least, that report had to have been both disquieting and alarming.  So Jesus does what anyone of us would do, he goes off by himself and reconsiders his life and his options.

Fifteen years ago, one of my former students, a 2005 graduate of Borgia, was heading to work on Highway 100, it was early in the morning and it seems as though he fell asleep at the wheel, crossed the center line and hit another car head on.  His body was bent and broken and there was considerable head trauma.  He was declared dead and taken off life support.  This was a mere two months after graduating from high school. Sadly, I have done a fair share of these sorts of funerals, and this was number three (of four) car accidents in a row involving recent graduates.

Needless to say, it threw his classmates for a loop.  Here you are, at the threshold of your life, ready to jump off into an exciting new adventure of college, or the workplace, or the military, or whatever, and suddenly, you realize that this is serious. Life is dangerous, life is fickle, life is so very, very fragile.  Like our Lord taking time for himself as he ponders the death of John, rethinking old ideas, reexamining broken certainties, those young people were, maybe for the first time, questioning everything they held near and dear as one of their close friends brutally died.  This young man was well liked and admired, he was fun, he was amiable, he was funny.  And then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

It was a grueling, painful, cruel time.  The very first time you have to acknowledge the hand of death upon one of your contemporaries, one of your friends, you are confronted and challenged with agonizing and excruciating realities, realities you are no longer free to sidestep or ignore.

And the good news today is that this is the beginning, not the end, of your relationship with a loving and gracious God.

As I look back on my life, it is precisely these moments, as appalling and dreadful as they were. that transformed and created me.  It is precisely in these moments that God comes to fill our need to satisfy our hunger.  He may not give us the comfortable answers we are looking for, and we like Jesus, may feel more than just a little bit disturbed, but that’s when God gives us the strength and the grace, to walk forward, to become deeper people, to reach out in love to others, to be bread, to be sustenance to an equally hurting world.

It is no secret that after this time of reflection, after his reevaluation of what his life and his ministry was all about, Jesus went out more boldly, more lovingly, more daringly, to bring the Kingdom.  Far from stopping him cold, John’s death seemed to inspire Jesus, to steel his will so that he could even more unflinchingly proclaim the Kingdom, the mercy and love of God that we humans need to live, move and have our being.  That keen boldness led to the miracle of the loaves where Jesus helps all of us realize that we have more to give to others than we thought we did, more than we could ever imagine.

The last few months, much like that summer of 2005 has been incredibly demanding and difficult. There has been fear, disruption, and worst of all, deep and painful loss. Make no mistake, life is not easy right now.  But this is exactly the sort of thing that can fashion and shape us into God’s Holy People. With the grace of God leading and guiding, one can emerge from the grief, from the sting, from the disruption, from the fearful realities that we necessarily have to face, with profound hope, with deeper life.

“They all ate and were satisfied…”

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Homily for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Central Idea: God’s grace helps us see beyond the differences, to welcome those who are different and alien. The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD…I will bring to my holy mountain and make [...]

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