Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 5:5-8.7:1-5.10; Mark 8:14-21)
On top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, stone statues of the twelve apostles look over the world that they have struggled to win for Christ. Each member of the band appears so magnificent in wisdom and power that we are challenged to reconcile these figures with the fumbling characters we meet in the gospel today.
The twelve have twice witnessed Jesus distribute a thousand times more bread than they had at hand. Yet they worry about having enough food in the boat when they have one loaf – that is, the Lord himself! Like most people, they cannot get over the human condition of scarcity. They cannot see that in Christ’s company they have more than enough.
Bumpkins as they are at this point, Jesus has to warn the disciples about thinking themselves greater than they are. He uses the example of leaven or yeast to give them the message. Put a bit of yeast in a little dough and in a short time you find a full loaf of bread. Yeast or leaven puffs up making something appear more massive than it is. “The leaven of the Pharisees” and “the leaven of Herod” puff up their carriers to the extent that they cannot recognize God’s messengers. The Pharisees think that they are defending God as they demand signs on the spot from Jesus, even after he has repeatedly given witness to his divine commission. In decapitating John, Herod pretends to have authority over innocent life. Jesus warns his disciples against both kinds of arrogance. They and we are neither to worry about what is lacking nor to think of our own virtue as sufficient. Rather, they and we must trust in Jesus.