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Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist: Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

“When his disciples heard about it (the death of John the Baptist), they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” (From Mark 6:17-29)

There is a slight difference between Mark’s account of John’s death, which we read today, and that of Matthew. It is this distinction that comes to mind for me now. The lectionary reading from Mark’s Gospel for today’s Mass ends as you see above. Matthew’s, on the other hand, ends with, “when Jesus had heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” (Matthew 14:13)

Jesus was the best example at showing us the need to pull away and be alone with God in silence. In this particular scene from his life, he withdraws in response to the death of someone he loved dearly, his cousin, John. There are other scenes in his life as well when we see Jesus going away to a deserted place. And, no doubt, each and every time that he does this, people go looking for him. Translation? The work will always be there waiting for us. So will the text messages, the emails, and God knows whatever else. I wish I could remember the name of the book, but a quote comes to mind for me today. I won’t get it exactly right, but it goes something like, “…there will always be something in your inbox. That’s why it’s called an inbox…”

The rhythm and balance between work and rest, between busyness and stopping is a hard one to come by, rest assured. And if it takes something tragic to stop us and draw us into the quiet, then that’s unfortunate. Jesus took time alone regularly, not just when something bad happened. That’s what we are called to also. We need it to survive. Our children need to see us embracing the quiet. There is no better gift for us to accept and no better gift for us to pass on to our children than the value of withdrawing to a deserted place to listen more intently to God’s voice.

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