“Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”― John Steinbeck
Gospel text: (MK 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?”
Have you ever shared something that you believe to be very important with someone only to have them completely misunderstand your point? You then try to rephrase what you were saying; you present your idea in a new way, or maybe you attempt to trigger the person’s memory of a shared experience in hopes that then they’ll understand– but still, you’re met with a look of confusion and possibly a “Uh, well… maybe I understand?” I think the experience of feeling misunderstood is one to which most people can relate. After all, the only human life that we have firsthand experience of is our own, and it is sometimes easy to forget that our thoughts and understandings differ from those of others, even if they seem like the only logical conclusions. In reading today’s Gospel, Mark 8:14-21, I found myself thinking about how frustrated and misunderstood Jesus must have felt. Jesus warned the disciples that although following him may be challenging, they must not be misled by Herod or the Pharisees. In his warning, Jesus used the word “leaven,” so the disciples completely missed the bigger meaning and figured that he was literally talking about a shortage of bread on the boat. Jesus attempted to re-explain his previous statement again and asked, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?... Do you not yet understand?” Jesus and the disciples then recounted the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, yet Jesus’ point (i.e. that although challenges may come about, he is the Son of God) still did not register with the disciples. You can almost picture Jesus disappointedly saying, “Do you still not understand?”
Where in both faith and life are we misunderstanding the main point? How often do we become distracted by “the small stuff” while missing what is most meaningful and worthwhile? Where in our lives is Jesus asking us, Do you still not understand? Jesus came as an example for how to live. Let’s be present today to our call to love and mindful of what may distract us from this mission.