Today's Gospel passage is one of my favorites for several reasons. One is that Jesus seeing the crowd was moved with pity for them; He didn't want them to be lost, roaming around without a Shepherd. Jesus and the Apostles didn't plan on this moment. Seconds before this Jesus invites the Apostles to come away with Him to a deserted place. I sometimes wonder what went through the Apostles minds when they saw the crowd had followed them. I somehow imagine that they may have been a bit miffed at the crowd and disappointed that they were not going to get some quality quiet and alone time with their Master. This brings me to the second reason I love this Gospel passage. It gives me permission to come away with Jesus to a quiet and deserted place.
As most of my readers know, I have made my share of silent retreats over the last several years. This is certainly one way to "Come away" with Jesus. However, at this time in my life, Our Lord has not seen fit to plant me beside the ocean locked away in a hermitage (maybe someday) so I must find other ways to accept this invitation and command.
One way is my weekly hour of Eucharistic Adoration. When I first began this hour nine years ago, I figured no one else would be in the chapel at midnight on a Sunday morning. I was looking forward to some quality alone time with Jesus. How wrong I was. Many a week there are more than just a few people there. Now my soul knows this is a wonderful thing. My selfish nature struggles with those thoughts the Apostles may have had. Do they have to be here now?
I am a very distractable person. These holy souls who often join me in adoring Our Lord do not always pray quietly or they have some very demonstrative ways of praying. It is at these times I remember why God gave me eyelids. I close my eyes and retreat into my "inner room" there before Jesus and despite that there may be many around me, I still have my quality alone time with Jesus.
While having a physical place to be alone with Jesus is a wonderful treat He sometimes gives, it isn't necessary. St Matthew's Gospel tells us: "But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee." (Matt. 6:6) We can do this anywhere simply by turning our hearts and thoughts to God. So any time, anywhere, we can find ourselves on the ultimate retreat with our Master.
Today is also the feast of St Mary Magdalen. She knew better than many how to accept this invitation of Jesus. She was often found sitting at His feet listening to Him. Our Lord describes her as someone who has "chosen the better part." Let us follow her example and ask her intercession today so that we too may choose the better part.