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“Hiding Place” by Rachael Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 My two year old son and I have endless fun playing hide-and-seek. He hasn’t quite grasped the concept of hiding himself, so I’m always the one to stealthily conceal myself around the couch, behind a large pillow or under a blanket, so my kid can barrel into the room and get a jolt of excitement when he finds the mom-shaped lump in the corner and gleefully shout “found you!!”

I used to be better at hiding places. In college, I loathed the moment when I’d be set up in the library – laptop at the ready, books for research stacked next to me and a steaming mug of coffee in my grasp– when someone would come up to me and start talking. When I was in my “study mode” I wanted to leave it that way. So after a while, I began finding deserted corners of the library that were 100% concealed from passers-by so I could hammer out a paper without interruption. My favorite stories of hiding in college were when I’d see this particular guy (we’ll call him “Joe”) who I just knew would trap me in conversation for like an hour. When I’d see him coming, I’d literally drop to the floor behind study stations, dive behind stacks of books and disappear into the crowd. It became a game, and if I was with friends, we’d all play “hide from Joe.” It was mean. I’ll probably do some time in purgatory for that, but sometimes you just don’t want to be found – right?

Jesus and his buddies had moments like this too. In the Gospel today, the 12 apostles had just returned from a hard assignment Jesus had given them, to travel on foot in groups of two, from city to city, to preach repentance. They had just gotten back and were telling Jesus all about it. Jesus was like, “Great job everyone! Since you all worked so hard, go find a place to hang out by yourselves, take a well-deserved post-mission nap, snack on some fish-jerky and just veg for a while.  And of course take some time to reflect on what you just experienced.”

The apostles were so excited, especially since they were in a crowded place and people kept coming up to them. They were all hungry, tired and needed showers. So they snuck away in a boat and sailed to a place they were sure would be deserted. Unfortunately, the crowds of people saw what they were doing, figured out which way the wind was blowing their sails, and beat them there on foot. When Jesus and the apostles arrived to their hide-away, they were greeted by five thousand people.

I can only imagine the groan that must have escaped the apostles’ lips. Peter must have said “Oh no no no no no – everyone get back in the boat – hoist the mainstay! Let’s get out of here!” The Gospel says that when Jesus saw the vast crowd, “his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” The apostles might have struggled with this a little bit. “Why does his heart have to be moved with compassion now?! We were going to relax and eat fish jerky. These people look hungry and I am NOT sharing my fish jerky with them.” I know if I were there, I probably would have said to Jesus “Look – enough is enough! Can’t we just pretend we didn’t see those (five thousand) people sitting there and sail on? We’re all exhausted!” But Jesus had other plans. “No, even though we’re tired, we still have more to give.”

The apostles replied, “What could we possibly still have to give? We literally have nothing left. No gas in the tank. No extra food, no cash for snacks and no place to buy anything – especially for that many people.”

What happens next is pretty amazing – and shows what Jesus can do, even with the tiniest amount to work with.  It shows what Jesus can do through us, even if we feel like we only have the tiniest crumb of our self (our time or talent) to offer him. Jesus can do great things through each of us, even if we’re tired. Even if we’re cranky.  What did he do? You’ll have to find out in next week’s Gospel…

TO BE CONTINUED.

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