The Gospel according to Mark (8:14-21)
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, please help me to be more receptive to the promptings of Your Holy Spirit, that I may see You moving in my life, and strive with all I am to be one who sees, hears, and understands Your love and Your truth. Teach me to love more like You! Amen.
One comment we can make right off from today’s Gospel is that it is clear that the Apostles did not understand much of what Jesus was trying to teach them. We can take heart in that, as they were learning from the very source of life itself: Jesus Himself. And yet, they still missed much of what Jesus taught. Now, we might say that was because the Apostles were mostly illiterate fisherman, not learned scholars in the Mosaic law. Truly, though, they missed understanding because they were bound by their own human perspective. Jesus was trying to get them to see things from God’s perspective, and they had a long way to go to have any chance of doing that.
Jesus also warns the Apostles about the “leaven of the Pharisees” and the “leaven of Herod”. He wasn’t talking about the yeast in the bread that they forgot to bring. He was telling them that their way on earth as His followers was not about strict, mindless following of the hundreds of laws of Judaism, or thinking that the corrupt laws of King Herod were the way, either. He was trying to get them to see that they needed to depend on the love and providence of God.
In my “pre-Catholic” days, I was a Protestant Christian, and I like to think that I knew my Bible pretty well. We had these competitions at Christian summer camp that were called “sword drills”. Basically, the leader would call out a Scripture reference and we would try to find it as quickly as possible, and read out the first few words. I won an award for one of those “sword drills”, so I must have at least known something about the order of the books in the Bible.
But the truth is that the knowledge was all intellectual, and didn’t really change me from the inside. My faith was all in my head, not in my heart. For whatever good feeling I had from winning the “sword drill”, I had far to go to truly live my faith from the heart.
Jesus’ remark to his Apostles was to caution them not to try to collect in their mind the various rules and laws and think that was enough. Jesus went beyond the law, as He knew that what God wanted was for people to treat each other with love and care, not to act solely because the law said to do this or that. That was the “leaven” that Jesus spoke of. Jesus knew that His time to teach His Apostles and all His disciples was limited. He couldn’t just fill their minds with knowledge. He had to teach them to try to love as He did and as His Father did.
The Apostles were concerned that they did not have enough bread, even though Jesus had worked two amazing miracles, feeding thousands from almost nothing. He was upset because they missed that lesson, namely, that God will provide if we only have faith. They thought it was all up to them, but that was missing the point entirely. God is the one who can do anything. Our responsibility is to give ourselves totally to His will, and to sincerely ask Him to show us what it is we need to do, and to trust Him that He will give us the tools necessary to do His work that He has assigned to us. God could do it all without us, but He longs for us to share in His work.
After today, we leave the season of Ordinary Time until after the Easter Season. In the season of Lent, which we begin tomorrow, we have an opportunity to look at how we are acting as Jesus’ followers, and to try to change course, so that we follow Him more closely. Jesus longs to work miracles in our lives, but He can’t do it if we don’t understand the importance of loving because it is God’s call to us, not that it is in some rule or another that we must follow. May we look ahead at this season of grace, and see that we can be instruments of God’s goodness, and all we have to do is be open, be willing, and to take that step in faith to respond to that call.
Trust that God has the plan, and that it’s not how smart I am that matters. It is that I am one who loves, who prays, and who seeks to serve those whom I meet. Let us go forth into Lent committed to love, to pray and to serve more, because doing so helps me to see more from God’s perspective, and to love more as God loves.
Closing Prayer: Loving Father, my prayer is that I reflect Your love and light into this world which has so much darkness. Let me shine that light, that others may see it and be drawn closer to You, the source of all light. Let me love like You do, and to give kindness, comfort and blessing to those whom I meet. Let me start with those with whom I live, that they may see You in my actions. Amen.
Action for the Day: Do something for someone else out of love, just out of love. If that person should ask why you are doing that action, just say to that person, “I’m doing this, to shine the light!”