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

When speaking of Scripture reading or more formal Scripture study, I often emphasize the  importance of not overlooking what seem to be minor or unimportant details.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Vatican II’s document on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum 11), tells us:

To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more. (no. 106)

So, everything in the Bible is what the Almighty wanted in its pages — no more, no less.

So who are we to overlook any words of the Word?  The first verse of today’s Gospel reading (Mt 14:13-21) is easy to bypass mentally as we move to what appears to be the “meat” of the passage.  But no so fast.  There is value in slowing down in many aspects of living, including in our reading of Holy Writ.

Consider what John meant to Jesus.

Cousin: “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Lk 1:44)

Forerunner and preparer:

* “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Lk 1:17)

* “And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. (Lk 1: 76-77)

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Status: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John.” (Lk 7:28)

Is it any wonder Jesus wanted some time alone to grieve?  The cousin who greeted Him from the womb.  The one who paved the way, making Jesus’ task easier in certain ways.  A great man, the greatest to have ever lived, who never compromised on the truth, and paid dearly for it.  So, might the Lord not also have been reminded that John’s fate — death at the hands of enemies — would be His as well and for the same reason?  The thoughts and emotions must have weighed down on Him.  Yet, like His cousin, Jesus never tired of giving of Himself.  As we read on, the crowds continue to press, and Jesus, always the Good Shepherd, pities them even in the depths of His own sorrow.  No rest for the weary, but Jesus realized that He was to use His limited time in the service of others.  In this scene He truly was the Suffering Servant, setting aside His own needs for the needs of the people.

As usual, Jesus provides the example for us to focus on others rather than on our own difficulties.  In this way we make ourselves more receptive to God’s grace while opening up others to the same by exemplifying a truly Christ-like disposition.

 

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