Leaven

Mark 8: 14-21
Gen 6: 5-8, 7:1-5,10 / Psa 29

Be careful, watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and that of Herod.
(Mark 8:15)

Pride can puff up one’s authority,
And lead to false interpretation
Of the Bible by some “Pharisee”
By his subtle manipulation.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied.

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8: 14-21)

Reflection

Leaven is a fermented substance that is added to the mixture of flour to make the bread rise, or seem to increase. Leavened bread is not what it appears to be–it is hollow and light, and does not fully satisfy. Leaven, therefore, “influences” bread to become or appear to be what it is not.

The “leaven of the Pharisees” was their pretense for moral uprightness and their knowledge of the law, which they imposed like a heavy burden on the Jews. The “leaven of Herod” referred to the Herodians, a political group who supported Herod and the Romans, and who were an even heavier burden on the people for the taxes they imposed. The “legalese” of the Pharisees, and the political influence of the Herodians were leading the Jews away from their covenant with God and the teachings of the prophets. The Jews were forgetting their reliance on God, and their privileged status as the Chosen People.

Our Lord was warning His disciples against the teachings of the Pharisees and the bad influence of King Herod. Both were proud and boastful, full of hypocrisy and sin. Because of their influence, they were leading the Jews away from the truth.

Only Jesus and His Word can satisfy us. Not the rites or rituals of religion, nor the pomp and power of politics. In the coming election season next year, let us guard against the false promises that will again be foisted on the electorate by politicians who are full of leaven — all hollow promises and empty performance.

But let us not lose hope. Look to Jesus and His Word, where we can find substance and meaning. Let us not be influenced by the foolishness of those in power. Let us instead just go on doing what our Lord Jesus exhorts us to do – being charitable to those who are in need. He will take care of us. He said, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? … Do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basket full of fragments were left?” (Mk.8:17-19)

Yes, Lord, we are men of little faith. Help us to trust in Your power to increase the little bread that we have to be able feed the five thousand. Increase our faith; remove from our hearts the leaven of materialism and greed, so that we can practice Your love for the sake of those in need. Amen.

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