Today’s Gospel1 starts with Jesus going off to hide and be alone so he can process the death of his friend and cousin. But he arrives at his prayer-place — maybe it was his favorite spot, maybe it was where he always went in times of deep distress, to be alone with the Father — to find it overrun with people clamoring for his attention: heal us, help us, give us what you’ve got, we’re so hungry.
They’re so desperate, so needy, so pathetic, that they’ve got to his favorite spot before he did. What an invasion of privacy, what an imposition!
Any human being in this situation would tend to react with selfishness: what about me, what about my needs? I say “selfishness”, but this reaction wouldn’t be blameworthy: it’s not blameworthy to want time by yourself, especially when you really are hurting or overwhelmed, as Jesus must have been. Jesus has, as we like to say, “needs”.
But instead his heart is moved with pity for them. He heals them and feeds them. If he’s frustrated, or impatient, or has to wrench his heart away from his own self-concern, we don’t see it.
As when we see Jesus do anything, there are two models for us here. The first is a model of how God is, in relation to us; the second is a model of how we must be, in relation to one another.
In the first place: when we come to him, ragged and limping and demanding his attention, it’s not an imposition. We don’t have to worry about whether he’s got better things to do. Tending to our whingeing, de-whinge-ifying us, is one of the reasons he came.
And in the second place: when others come to us for healing, we must do as he did. Yes, we have to maintain proper boundaries; we have to make time for ourselves; and we have to know our limits. But we can’t always wait to help people until we’re sure we’ve got the resources.
Matthew 14 is a proto-Eucharist, a foreshadowing of the Last Supper, where Jesus gives us the very substance of himself, his very flesh and blood. He gives us his heart. He gives it, not from a place of personal fullness, but from a place of his own personal hurt and grief and need.
Do this in memory of me, he says. He wasn’t just talking about the Consecration, and he wasn’t just talking to priests. Give yourself, he says, as I have given myself. Give your heart.