This week I am on retreat at the beautiful Kenthurst Study Centre. This is where Pope Benedict rested and prayed prior to Sydney’s World Youth Day. Kenthurst is one of my favourite places in all the world.

In view of today’s Gospel, a retreat is apropros don’t you think?

When Jesus received the news of John’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.

Of course, in our Lord’s case, it was not to be. A large crowd follows, and work ensues. But while the miraculous events that follow deserve thorough treatment, I think the line just quoted is also worth considering.

Our Lord was grieving. We can easily imagine him praying for his cousin during his months of imprisonment, and now the worst has happened and John the Baptist is dead. Deep grief must have afflicted a good number of the apostles also. Some of them had been disciples of John the Baptist. They owed him their faith. They owe him their contact with Jesus!

Now add fear to their grief. John had been hugely popular with the people — he spoke with authority, and his holiness was renowned. But it wasn’t enough to protect him, and now he is dead. If this could happen to John, what would happen to Jesus? If the apostles are not afraid by this, I bet they were at least anxious!

So the Lord calls for a retreat.

Remember that, when life gets the better of you. There’s nothing wrong with calling time out occasionally. If you need to get away, get away. Our Lord took self-care seriously. So must his disciples.

Then there’s the matter of the annual retreat. This is mandated for clergy, but the Church exhorts everyone to make an annual retreat. It’s good for the soul, and the body, and especially in our frenetic age, it’s good for the mind.

But most of all, it’s good for our Lord. He wants to spend time alone with you. Why don’t you oblige him?