Remembering God’s Goodness

2.13.18 Tues. Wk 6 – O.T. – (II)
1st Letter of St. James  1: 12 – 18
Gospel  of  Mark  8:  14 – 21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.   He 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?”   The Gospel of the Lord.


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                     Remembering God’s Goodness

Our Scriptures today seem appropriate for the day before we begin the Lenten Season – when we are thinking about what sacrifices to make during the next 40 days; how we might live so as to deepen our relationship with God.  How we might, over the next 40 days, grow in the spiritual life.  What can I do this Lent to be a better Christian?  And as we know, too often within a week or two, we have already broken our Lenten commitment; that is normal for many of us, and it can be very frustrating and very discouraging.

But in the Letter of St. James (our first reading today) we are given some sound advice: “Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation”. (James 1:12)  We find in this Letter, advice on how to live with temptation, whether we are being tempted by the evildoer ‘to give in’ to our selfish desires’, or being tempted by our weak humanity.  We have to understand this; God will never tempt us, ever!  “But wait”, you say: “We read in in the Lord’s Prayer something different”.  We read: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. (Matthew 6:13)   If you have been reading the press in the last month or so – you know that there’s been a bit of controversy because the Holy Father, Pope Francis, is considering changing those words in the ‘Our Father’.  (The English translation is really the problem.)  The words: “Lead us not into temptation”, is as if God the Father – leads us into temptation.  In Spanish, for instance, we read “caer en tentacion”, which means: “Do not let us fall into temptation”, which is really the sense of that phrase.   The English translation does not quite give us the sense of: “Let us not fall into temptation”.  God doesn’t lead us, but we certainly fall; sometimes, a lot.

So, if we are tempted during Lent, it is not because the Lord is leading us, or wanting to make things hard for us.  That’s not the Lord’s purpose and the apostle James reminds us: “Only good things come from the Lord”, and, by our Lenten asceticism, good things do come from the Lord because we get rid of all those barriers to the Lord’s goodness.  The reason we don’t receive all of the goodness that God wants to give us is because – we put up barriers against Him – ‘my will’ – ‘what I want’ – ‘this thing’ – ‘that thing’.  God won’t force Himself on us, when we are putting up barriers to Him.  It is very easy to forget the good things that God has done for us in our lives, and our lack of trust in God, comes from our doubts:  “Will the Lord keep His promise”?   “I am not so sure I can trust Him”.  God has been faithful to us all and He will continue to be faithful to us until we enter into eternity.  God is trustworthy.  He is worthy of our trust!

In the Gospel, †Jesus warns His disciples: “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees”. (Mark 8:14f)  What is the leaven of the Pharisees?  It could be described as forgetting all the Lord’s goodness to us in the past; forgetting all His blessings.  That could be the “leaven”, not trusting God in the moment.  Just as leaven changes the dough, so that it rises, ‘forgetting God’s goodness’ changes our relationship with God.  We tend to keep Him at arm’s length because we can’t trust Him – if we forget about all the good things He had done for us.

The Pharisees made their decisions on what was expedient – they would control the people through Rabbinic Laws rather than liberating them, which is what the Commandments are meant to do.  But they added other statutes and laws to the commandments, so – the Law of God wasn’t liberating them, it was controlling them.  They also maintained the status quo with the Romans, this is why †Jesus was crucified.  They were afraid of what the Romans would do if †Jesus upset the ‘apple cart’.  They were afraid He would start a Revolution.  Remember the words of Caiaphas: “It is better for one man to die than the whole nation”. (John 18:14)  They had forgotten how good God had been to them throughout their history.

The Pharisees did not discern the mind of God.  They were blinded by their own power, arrogance and fear.  They could not recognize, in the words of †Jesus, the love and trust that God was calling them to.  †Jesus was proclaiming Good News.  The Good News that God was now among His people again.  He wasn’t in some Ark, or in some Temple.  He was flesh and blood walking with His people.  That is Good News!  But they had forgotten about God’s goodness.

Too often, we forget about the good things God has done for us, so we think we must go it alone.  We think: “If I take control of my life I will have a happier, more fulfilling life”.  But in the Gospel, †Jesus reminds the disciples of ‘The Miracles of the Loaves and Fish’.  †Jesus had provided a miracle when there was not enough food to feed the people.  Again, God’s goodness was taking care of the people.  God’s goodness!  When we become more preoccupied with our problems, putting less trust in the Lord, we cut ourselves off from God’s Grace.  We put a barrier up to God’s goodness and we become so turned in on ourselves – on my problems – rather than to say: “Lord, please help me here.  I surrender”.  That’s what the Lord wants to hear.  He wants us to open our hearts to receive all of His goodness.  He’s not stingy – like some of us; He is full of compassion!  †Jesus is teaching His disciples to trust in the abiding presence of God.

The Christian Life is meant to be very, very simple.  †Jesus summarized it in the two great Commandments: “Love God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself”.  That’s pretty simple.  Just two things – love God and love your neighbor.

Lent is a time to return to simplicity, to do without everything we want or desire.  We can do that!  We can also give of ourselves to help others, all the while remembering that God is never outdone in generosity.  Never forget that!  Remember, †Jesus is with us and will provide all that we need.

This Lent, do not be tempted to embrace the leaven of the Pharisees.  Do not forget all the good you have received from God.  If we live as the Lord asks us, living with faith, hope and love – we will have enough.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.