Bad Leaven

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Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time


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?”


Opening Prayer: Lord I come to you today seeking to learn and grow. Many times, I am like the Apostles in the Gospel today, slightly obtuse about the spiritual lessons you are trying to teach me. I open my heart to you and the Holy Spirit to lead me to a better outlook and more trust.


Encountering Christ:


  1. Bad Leaven: It does not take much yeast to get dough to rise. That leavening permeates the starch of the dough, which makes it grow and expand. It is an image Jesus uses here to illustrate what can happen when the leaven of unbelief is deposited in our souls. It grows. It expands. It corrupts—that is the leaven of the Pharisees and Herodians. We need to examine ourselves for any of this incipient malignancy.
  2.  Spiritual Senses: Jesus was offering his disciples some suggestions for combating this negative interior growth. He talked about eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. If the spiritual senses are unengaged, then the bad leaven will continue to grow unchecked. But by the simple act of opening our spiritual eyes and ears, we can welcome new graces to help us begin to see things that we missed before. When we can start seeing how active the Lord is in our lives, the negative leaven will lose its power to corrupt.
  3.  Salvific Remembrance: After Jesus’s instruction, it seemed that the disciples were still struggling to understand. Another way to combat the bad leaven and activate the spiritual senses is to remember the blessings that our Lord has sent us: “Do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand?” Salvific remembrance is an important aspect of the Judeo-Christian outlook. Looking back to creation through salvation history gives the Catholic the macro view that combats the bad leaven. It is imperative, though, to bring this understanding to a personal level—to remember how many times God came to our rescue, gave us a light, opened a door, extinguished a danger. When we keep remembering, the bad leaven is contained and left sterile.  

Conversing with Christ: Lord, how much bad leaven is in my soul? Help me to recognize that growing doubts are a sign of my tuning out and forgetting your marvelous deeds in my life. Permeate my soul with the leaven of spiritual insight and constant remembrance of the goodness of your gifts.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a closer look at the negative leavening of a growing frustration in my life. I will take a few minutes to try to engage my spiritual vision and salvific remembrance. Does that help my perspective?


For Further Reflection: “I will recall the deeds of the Lord; yes, recall your wonders of old. I will ponder all your works; on your exploits I will meditate” (Psalms 77:12).


Written by Father Steven Reilly, LC.

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