Lectio Divina: Mark 8:14-21
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
when we do not see clearly in life,
when suffering comes our way,
we tend to blame You or people.
Help us to realize clearly
how much of the evil around us
comes from within ourselves:
from our greed for riches and power,
from our self-complacency and selfishness.
Speak to us Your word of forgiveness
and change us from a silent majority of evil
into solidarity of love,
by the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - 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?"
Yesterday’s Gospel spoke of the misunderstanding between Jesus and the Pharisees. Today’s Gospel speaks of the misunderstanding between Jesus and the disciples and shows that the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod (religion and government), had taken possession of the mentality of the disciples to the point of hindering them from listening to the Good News.
Mark 8: 14-16: Attention to the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Jesus warns the disciples to look out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. But they do not understand the words of Jesus. They think that He is speaking like that because they forgot to buy bread. Jesus says one thing and they understood another. This clash was the result of the insidious influence of the yeast of the Pharisees on the mentality and on the life of the disciples.
Mark 8: 17-18a: Jesus’ question. In the face of this almost total lack of perception in the disciples, Jesus rapidly asks them a series of questions, without waiting for an answer. They are hard questions which express very serious things and reveal the total lack of understanding on the part of the disciples. Even if it seems unbelievable, the disciples reach the point in which there is no difference between them and the enemies of Jesus. First, Jesus had become sad seeing the hardness of heart of the Pharisees and of the Herodians (Mk 3: 5). Now, the disciples themselves have hardened their hearts (Mk 8: 17). First, those outside (Mk 4:11) do not understand the parables because they have eyes and do not see, listen but do not understand (Mk 4:12). Now, the disciples themselves understand nothing, because they have eyes and do not see, listen, but do not understand (Mk 8:18). Besides, the image of the hardened heart evoked the hardness of heart of the people of the Old Testament who always drifted away from the path. It also evoked the hardened heart of Pharaoh who oppressed and persecuted the people (Ex 4: 21; 7: 13; 8: 11, 15, 28; 9: 7 ). The expression “they have eyes and do not see, listen but do not understand” evoked not only the people without faith criticized by Isaiah (Is 6: 9-10), but also the adorers of false gods, of whom the psalm says, “They have eyes and see nothing, have ears and hear nothing” (Ps 115: 5-6).
Mark 8: 18b-21: The two questions regarding the bread. The two final questions refer to the multiplication of the loaves: How many baskets did they gather the first time? Twelve! And the second time? Seven! Like the Pharisees, the disciples also, though they had collaborated actively in the multiplication of the loaves, did not succeed in understanding the meaning. Jesus ends by saying, “Do you still not understand?” The way in which Jesus asks these questions, one after the other, almost without waiting for an answer, seems to cut the conversation. It reveals a very big clash. What is the cause of this clash?
The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples. The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples was not due to ill will on their part. The disciples were not like the Pharisees. The Pharisees did not understand, but in them there was malice. They used religion to criticize and to condemn Jesus (Mk 2: 7,16,18,24; 3: 5, 22-30). The disciples were good people. Theirs was not ill will, because even if they were victims of the yeast of the Pharisees and of the Herodians , they were not interested in defending the system of the Pharisees and the Herodians against Jesus. Then, what was the cause? The cause of the clash between Jesus and the disciples had something to do with the Messianic hope. Firstly, among the Jews there was an enormous variety of Messianic expectations. Second, the diverse interpretations of the prophecies: there were people who expected a Messiah King (cf. Mk 15: 9, 32); others, a Messiah Saint or Priest (cf. Mk1:24); others, a Messiah subversive Warrior (cf. Lk 23:5; Mk 15: 6; 13: 6-8); others, a Messiah Doctor (cf. Jn 4: 25; Mk 1: 22-27); still others, a Messiah Judge (cf. Lk 3: 5-9; Mk 1:8); others, a Messiah Prophet (6: 4, 14, 65). It seems that nobody expected a Messiah Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (Is 42: 1; 49: 3; 52: 13). They did not consider the messianic hope as a service of the people of God to humanity. Each group, according to their own interests and according to their social class, awaited the Messiah, but wanted to reduce Him to their own hope. This is why the title Messiah, according to the person or social position, could mean very different things. There was a great confusion of ideas! And precisely in this attitude of Servant is found the key which turns on a light in the disciples’ darkness and helps them toward conversion. It is only in accepting the Messiah as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, that they will be capable of opening their eyes and understanding the Mystery of God in Jesus.
4) For Personal Confrontation
What is for us today the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod? What does it mean today for me to have a hardened heart?
The yeast of Herod and the Pharisees prevents the disciples from understanding the Good News. Perhaps, today the propaganda of television prevents us from understanding the Good News of Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
I need only say, “I am slipping,”
for Your faithful love, Yahweh, to support me;
however great the anxiety of my heart,
Your consolations soothe me. (Ps 94:18-19)