Why All This Talk Of Bread?
Jesus and his band of brothers climbed into a small boat and embarked on a journey to the opposite shore. They had just witnessed the second miraculous multiplication of loaves, as well as the willful unbelief of the Pharisees demanding a sign. From the view of a gull circling above, it was an idyllic scene –of men united, crossing a sea, sharing a common purpose. But from the Spirit, which discerns the hearts of man, it was something altogether different.
Someone forgot to bring the bread, and the disciples, preoccupied with their grumbling stomachs, were arguing about who was to blame. Jesus, lost in the realm of the Spirit, was processing the miraculous works of his Father and how the other side would lead him to the Cross, when he blurts out: 'Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod' (Mark 8:15).
Lost in their own world, the disciples were clueless to the obscure Words of Jesus, thinking 'It is because we have no bread' (8:17). Jesus replies, “'Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?' They answered, 'Twelve'. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?' And they answered, 'Seven'. Then he said to them, 'Are you still without perception?' (18-21).”
To lack perception is to be unaware of what is happening around us, leaving us unable to see where we are heading –not unlike being lost at sea without a compass. What we choose to remember, what we become preoccupied with, becomes the default heading in the compass of our life -leading us, for better or for worse, to that destiny. In the case of the disciples, their arguing, blaming, and preoccupation with their personal needs was leading them away from Jesus’ plan; earning them a rebuke, for pettiness, in light of his Father’s Abundant Provision.
In their preoccupation for bread, they were blind to the Bread of Life in their midst; to the Truth Who Saves; to their Safe Harbor; their Wellspring of Life. Because of his Sacrificial Love, we possess the Bread of Life. In this Gift, we have a Compass which will lead us in all ways to Truth –to the Father’s destiny for our lives. It is this Eucharist Encounter which sustains us in our journey; and directs us toward our Destiny in Christ.
In consuming his Divinity, he consumes our Sinfulness. In possessing Him, he possesses us. In offering him our Brokenness, he offers us his Healing. We are delivered from the pettiness of our personal needs, and empowered to live a Life beyond what we can dream – a Life that our Father dreams for us; a Life freed from Self; surrendered to God; a Life of Eucharistic Union.
For this, Jesus warns against the yeast of the Pharisees, which beguiles us into Self-Sufficiency, into acts of Dead Religiosity -in place of Acts of Love. And for this, he warns against the yeast of Herod which seduces us to be our own god –free to define Truth, and Good, and Evil according to our pleasure. Jesus is guarding us against that yeast which disguises the Suffering of the Cross.
Only the Unleavened Bread of Life can sustain us into this Death-to-Self so willed by God. Only the Bread of Life can draw us beyond our need and into the Surplus of God. The Baskets of Surplus are the Father’s sign of his Provisional Love –lavished and without end. In surrendering the little that we have, our neediness is transformed into Grace -to love; to embrace his Cross; even, to knowing Union with God.This is the perception that Jesus is asking of us. This is the Truth he is offering us, free of the World’s Yeast which corrupts the offering of our Self. Let us then, talk of this Bread. Let us become preoccupied with this Bread. May all our Hungers lead us to this Bread of Life, for it will point us always to the Father.