14 Feb 2017: The Leaven of the Pharisees


Tuesday, Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: Gen 6: 5-10; Ps. 29: 1-10; Gospel: Mk. 8: 14-21

The scene which Mark depicts today is one of the most painful ones in the Gospel. Jesus is warning His disciples to watch out against the yeast (leaven) of the Pharisees and of Herod.  They do not understand what Jesus meant. Leaven is a piece of dough from left over bread which has the ability to ferment an entire mass of dough, causing it to grow, and to change its very shape and texture. And the use of leaven was strictly forbidden in all offerings made to the Lord by fire (Lev. 2:11). Fermentation is associated with moral corruption. Actually for the Jews, leaven is a sign of evil that subtly influencing our lives.  It is also an image of corruptness and of perverseness of heart and life (Matt. 16:6, Mk 8:15).  Jesus warns his disciples to avoid the way of the Pharisees and of Herod who seek their own counsels rather than the will of God.

But how can we guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod? First is by refusing the evil influence of the leaven of other people. I know of a friend of mine, a former seminarian, who worked as the personal secretary of the manager of a big company in Hyderabad. He shared to me his own experience with his boss during a business travel. One time he accompanied his boss for a business convention and when they arrived at the venue, in the hotel, he was told by his boss that every night he would be with a prostitute. But my friend refused to do it. His boss told him that he would dismiss him from his job. What my friend did was He opted to be jobless and penniless rather than be an accomplice of this immoral act. He withdrew from company and he resigned from his job as the personal secretary of the Manager. We would have to sacrifice our own job, position and even life if others gradually influencing us of their corrupt and dishonest ways. It is not easy but it is not impossible.

Second is to understand by remembering. Jesus corrects His disciples by inviting them to remember the miracles he has worked like: the multiplication of the loaves. This frees the disciples from their narrow minded concern for their human error and puts everything into a supernatural perspective. We must not easily forget what God has already done for us and to doubt what He promises to do as well. Do we take time to remember the many good things God has done for us like the miracles He has done in our lives so as to put His Kingdom first in our lives?

Jesus warns us of bad leaven: the leaven of the Pharisees which is pride and that of Herod which is sensuality. And so the third is to permeate the world with the good yeast or the influence that a Christian should exert in his surroundings and make Christ reign in the hearts and minds of all people.  Let us pray: Lord help our lack of Faith, make us humble. Keep our hearts and our minds open and alert, attentive, ready and willing to make progress. Purify us, Lord, from the yeast of vanity and heal us from our proud self assurance. Foster in us Lord a spirit of search. Amen.

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