Yesterday, on the day before the opening of Lent, the words in the Gospel of Mark 8:14-21 cut me to the heart, and I at last felt Christ had given me my spiritual focus for Lent.
To set the scene here, we are early into Jesus’s ministry. The disciples are in a boat with him, having just witnessed unfathomable, heart stopping miracles. The feeding of 5,000 people from five loaves of bread, the feeding of 4,000 from seven loaves of bread, the walking on water, countless healings, demons cast out, and Jesus had also already sent the disciples themselves out and empowered them to heal and exorcise demons in his name.
After all this, Jesus now tries to warn them against what he refers to as the leaven of Herod and of the Pharisees. This image contains much wisdom; however, it’s completely lost on the disciples because, as the Gospel says, they conclude he’s talking about the fact that they forgot to pack enough bread.
Jesus somehow becomes aware of this. And his response is described in this passage as a series of questions. These questions are heartbreaking. They are profound. They reveal so much about the human condition. They tell us so much about how blind we are to the fact of God’s love for us, and how much abundant life we are missing out on. How difficult it is for God to get this through to humanity–his immense love and care for us!
Here are the questions:
- 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 remember…
- Do you still not understand?
I enter into Lent pondering these questions.
The first one first, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend?” What is Jesus saying here? “Do you not yet understand that there is nothing you need besides me? That all you need is to have me with you? All your needs, all your desires, everything will be fulfilled for you. All you need is to put me, following my will, advancing my Kingdom, listening to me, bringing my love to those around you, as the number one and primary concern of your entire existence, and everything will be taken care of for you.” Doesn’t Jesus say this essentially when he says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you”?
Notice how the disciples missed out on the teaching that Jesus was trying to give them about Herod and the Pharisees and their toxic way of thinking. They completely missed it because they were so concerned about the bread. I imagine that poor Jesus’s jaw was on the floorboards of the boat when he realized this. I also believe it was a moment of deep disappointment and a smack of reality as to just how pathetic we all really are. All of these moments that they had spent with him witnessing and even themselves facilitating the miraculous, they simply forgot in the face of such a minor detail as forgetting to pack a picnic. Alas, I am not under any delusions that I’m different at all from the disciples in that boat worried about their one loaf of bread.
What wisdom am I missing from Jesus because of my hangups and anxieties that should be trustfully handed over to Him? What would I do today if I fully understood, knew, realized, experienced, and remembered God’s deep love and care for me? What would be different about my day–today? How would my interactions with people be different? What decisions would I make differently? What words would I say, or not say? How would my thoughts differ? My outlook? My worldview?
Oh Lord, I am so helpless. I am absolutely destitute before you. The disciples had you and all this right in front of them and they literally could not see it. I have you present in the Sacraments, plus 2,000 years of theology, and I also cannot understand the way that I should. Lord, please open my eyes and my ears. I pray for the grace to understand and comprehend your deep love for me. And then, to live that deep understanding and comprehension, to let it bear much good fruit in my life, and for your Kingdom.
Blessed Mother, pray with me, that I will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a renewed heart that fully understands and comprehends your Son’s love for me.
Jesus, save us from not knowing your love! It is all we need to truly live!
This makes me think of the sadness of Jesus. The song for this post is here: “Love comes slow, and it goes so fast.” Lord, don’t let us let Love go!