Today’s gospel is very familiar, but a detail I’d never noticed jumped out at me upon deeper reflection: The feeding of the 5,000 men (and perhaps up to 30,000 people total when women and children are included) occurs soon after Jesus learns of John the Baptist’s death. Although he was probably not surprised by John’s death, hearing of it and the manner in which it happened, must have been a profoundly moving loss for Jesus.

We learn that Jesus’ reaction to the news was to withdraw in solitude. We don’t know how long he was gone or what, specifically, he did when alone. What we do know is that his time away, then and throughout his life, played a significant part in how he was able to minister to others.

In the midst of his grief and initial desire to be alone, thousands of people seek Jesus out, and Jesus responds with compassion. He responds by healing them. Meanwhile, his disciples response to the crowd was to insist that these people go out and meet their own basic needs, get their own food. But Jesus invites his disciples to minister to those in need through the gifts and resources they already possessed. In the end, these things would turn out to be sufficient.

How do you “recharge” yourself with God’s grace so you can meet and minister to others? How often do you use solitude and silence? How do you react to those who need something from you when you seem to have spent it all? What experiences do you have of your gifts and resources being sufficient?

–Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.