Scripture: 1st Reading: James1,12-18; Resp. Psalm: Ps94,12-15,18-19; Gosp. Accl.: Jn14,23; Gospel: Mk8,14-21
Leaven, an ambivalent material, used for fermentation but that also causes decay and corruption. The leaven of the Pharisees here refers to their corrupting lives and their misleading teachings that did not elevate the spiritual lives of the people to the level of divine blessedness. They left the authentic manifestations of God's power in Jesus that pointed to the advent of the kingdom to question Him about a further sign from heaven.
Our Lord today warned His disciples against these terrible teachings that could lead the inadvertently to a misunderstanding of who He was and what His mission entailed. Even after seeing all that He had done, the disciples still did not understand. According to our Lord, their hearts were hardened. In other words, they willfully resisted the divine light of understanding that accompanied the signs that He gave them and to His divine presence as the Giver of the signs.
The signs were there. Our Lord had done what no eye had ever seen and no ear ever heard. Those outside the circles of His disciples were giving glory to God for what He did and said. Before the rebuke of today's gospel, our Lord had performed many miracles and portents. He had healed the blind, cast out devils, fed the crowd with superabundance offer food. It was therefore exasperating that His closest collaborators did not understand the inner meaning of these signs. Their hearts were closed.
For our Lord, this was a great cause for pain and trial. It was a temptation. Our first reading warns us against the evils of temptation. It tells us clearly that God does not tempt and cannot be tempted. We are warned that our tempter is our own desire. The desire of our hearts are the evil leavens that corrupt our inner, spiritual lives. These desires are the ones that give birth to sin and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.
God therefore does not cause us evil. God does not bring us disaster. He gives us only good endowments and gifts. These come from Him because He is the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. He brought us forth without our knowledge and cooperation to be the first fruits of His creatures. He will sustain us to the end if we remain faithful to Him.
Today is the last day in ordinary time prior to the Season of Lent, which prepares us for Easter. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The word of God through the season will prepare us physically and spiritually for the encounter with the Risen Lord stressed Easter. May God listen to our prayers.
We cannot make a greater sacrifice for our salvation than to use tomorrow in a spiritual way. Our Lord, whom St. Valentine imitated, is Love, because He is God. Every other expression of love is stubble and inconsequential compared to His. His life was love demonstrated, manifested, revealed and lived. No man -made commercialized expression of love should ever be allowed to take us away from our commitment to Him tomorrow. Let our Ash Wednesday be Ash Wednesday. God bless us as we heed His call.
As we begin Lent tomorrow, a useful companion is my book of homilies and reflections on Lent that was published October last year. It is available at Church of Assumption Bookshop, Falomo, Lagos, Divine Mercy Bookshop, Lekki, Lagos, Pauline Bookshop, St. Leo, Ikeja, Seminary Bookshop, Bodija, Ibadan, Mater Dei Bookshop, Akure or directly from me. Grab copies for yourself and your friends. Spread the word to them. God bless you as you do so. May God bless our Lent.
Let us pray: God our heavenly Father, you sent your Son Jesus to show us the way to you. We thank you for the gift of our Lord Jesus, who revealed your love to us. Give us your grace to live as He lived. Turn our hearts from sinful passions and desires. Keep us focused on you, our eternal goal. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.