Beware the Leaven
Gospel Reflection For The 13th day of February in the year of Our Lord, 2024
14 And they forgot to take bread; and they had but one loaf with them in the ship. 15 And he charged them, saying: Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying: Because we have no bread. 17 Which Jesus knowing, saith to them: Why do you reason, because you have no bread? do you not yet know nor understand? have you still your heart blinded? 18 Having eyes, see you not? and having ears, hear you not? neither do you remember. 19 When I broke the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took you up? They say to him, Twelve. 20 When also the seven loaves among four thousand, how many baskets of fragments took you up? And they say to him, Seven.
21 And he said to them: How do you not yet understand?
Again, our Lord seems exasperated. How could His own Apostles not know that He could provide for all their needs in miraculous fashion? They knew He could raise the dead, heal the sick and even walk on water, but they worried they would not have enough bread even after seeing Him multiply the loaves on two occasions! However, Jesus knew full well their minds, their hearts and their weaknesses. He knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Saint Peter would deny Him. He knew that all would falter due to fear after His crucifixion. He also knew what faith and power they would have after His resurrection.
We must wonder why our Lord did not speak to them more plainly. Perhaps their striving to understand was part of gaining spiritual maturity. Later the Apostles whose words are recorded in the Bible and Saint Paul, especially, emphasized that God tests and tries those whom He loves. He refines them and strengthens their faith through suffering and confusion. I imagine that with each such lesson, Jesus was deepening the faith of His Apostles, leading them to know that they could rely on Him for everything. Consider the Miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana. The mother of God did not even ask. She knew her Divine Son could provide wine for the feast and would if she asked. She simply says to Him, “They have no wine.” He seems to complain that He is not yet ready to reveal Himself as God, but He does as she asks. Our Lord never refuses His mother, which is why asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray for us is so very powerful. She knows He will not refuse her, so she simply says to the others, “Do as He tells you.” The one who knew Him best knew that she could rely on Him and that He was capable of all things.
So, why do we worry? Has the leaven of doubt and sin caused us not to trust fully in God? Leaven is yeast, a living organism that multiplies as it digests sugars and starches in the process of rising bread. Just a tiny bit of yeast will grow into a quantity that may rise thousands of loaves and continue to regenerate for decades. Anything that separates us from God, no matter how seemingly small or trivial can grow and grow until it has permeated our souls just as yeast does dough. The remedy is the sacrament of Reconciliation along with heroic personal effort. We all fail, but we must keep trying. As Saint James said in our first reading today:
Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, A Daily Catholic Devotional Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings January-June, 2024. It is Available in paperback on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CPD1DC7Q
Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is also Available in paperback on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C47Q1JNK
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic