Monday, February 13, 2017

Are Your Hearts Hardened?

By Melanie Rigney

When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved. (Genesis 6:5-6)

The Lord will bless his people with peace. (Psalm 29:11b)

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?" (Mark 8:14-18)

Lord, help me to stay on the narrow road, eyes focused on You.

The Pharisees and Herod and his followers didn’t have a lot in common. The Pharisees were all about the ritual and the law of religion; those who followed Herod, on the other hand, were devoted to a decadent, corrupt lifestyle. They agreed, however, on the danger this Jesus and his teachings about God presented to them. They challenged Jesus and attempted to set traps for him, so as to have a reason to do away with him.

Jesus’s way can be difficult. Challenging. Especially that part about having to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow daily. By contrast, the excesses of the Pharisees and Herod required less discernment. The Pharisees’ way was exacting, setting forth the right way to do virtually everything. There was little room for error… and a whole lot of room for judging others who didn’t follow the rules quite as well as you did. Herod’s followers?  They liked to be entertained, and woe to you if you didn’t find them fun and engaging… or vice versa.

The lesson in today’s Gospel reading isn’t about a lack of physical nourishment. It’s about the danger that even a tiny bit of the wrong sort of spiritual food can do to our souls. A little gossiping or a little judging doesn’t seem dangerous. But it can be. A little excessive vacationing or a little excessive personal pampering doesn’t seem dangerous. But it can be. It’s like the struggles some of us have with an opened bag of potato chips or Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint cookies. The first is the easiest to refuse.

Pray for the Lord’s help in saying no today to the temptation to participate in small practices of judgment or excess. 

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