Beware of the Leaven of the World
Tuesday February 18, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 6:5-8, 7:1-5, 10) Gospel (St. Mark 8:14-21)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord makes very clear that there are two basic ways of thinking and He tells His disciples to be on the watch against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. The disciples, of course, misunderstand and think He is talking about bread; but what He is talking about is what gets into the mind and how it begins to work in the mind. Like leaven, it begins to ferment and begins to grow and starts to spread through the whole mass. And that is precisely what bad influences do to us, so much so that the Lord said in the first reading, as He was about to destroy the earth, that He saw how no thought of man’s heart was ever anything but evil and He regretted that He had made man on the earth. What a sad statement.
But this is what happens if we allow the leaven of the world to creep in. And it has creeped in. It has creeped into the people in the Church and it has creeped into the Church itself – not into the official teachings of the Church, but certainly into the people who are even among the hierarchy, among the religious, even in the monasteries, as well as, of course, the laypeople who are in the pews. We sit in front of that blasted TV set for hours and hours and hours a day, and we listen to the radio for hours and hours and hours a day. We think that we are actually going to get something good, and it fills our minds with mush. We could be listening to the words of the Lord. We could be pondering day and night the law of the Lord, as Scripture tells us to do. But instead, we want to fill up with other things rather than God.
We want God in our life and we kind of relegate Him to a little corner of our life, but beyond that most of us really do not want God to be everything in our lives. Out of the whole earth, at the time of the flood, God found one person – one – who was just. What a sad thing, once again, that out of the entire population only one was found just. But if you think about it, even among Catholics today, out of the entire populace of Catholics who have ever walked the face of this earth over the last 2,000 years, we have only a few thousand who are canonized saints. That winds up being about two a year; that is not saying very much for us. If all we can do is a couple a year, we are in sad shape. Even worse than that, Satan himself had to admit (at the time of Saint John Vianney) that if there were three Vianneys on the face of the earth at one time, Satan himself would be done – he would be finished. Once again, what a tragic statement that we as Catholics cannot even field three saints at one time on the face of the earth of that caliber!
We are filling our minds with the leaven of the world, with the filth of all that is around us. We are allowing it to creep in and to infiltrate and to fill us with things that are not of God. We have to make that choice to say, “What do I want to fill my mind with?” To some degree, you will have no choice; you live in the world and you are going to have to go to work; you’re going to have to deal with your neighbors, family members, whatever the case may be, and you are going to get a lot of secular influence. But it is a question of when you have a choice. When you are in the car, what are you listening to? When you are at home, what do you have on? Are you allowing silence to be a major part of your life so that you can actually think about the Lord and think about the important things in life? Or are you like most Americans? As soon as they get up in the morning the radio goes on, and as soon as they get down to the breakfast table the TV goes on, and as soon as they get to the car the radio goes back on, and as soon as they get to the office the radio is on already. When they get back to the car the radio goes back on, and when they get home the TV goes on, and it stays that way until they fall asleep. Not a moment of silence. And not a moment of not being infiltrated by things that are not good.
Beware of the leaven – in this case, not of Herod and the Pharisees, but basically the same thing – of the secular way of thinking and of false religion. It is all around us. It is very easy to find; you do not even have to look for it. For the truth, however, you need to search and you need to make that a priority. The Lord is very clear that the choice is ours. And He is telling His disciples to beware and they did not understand what He meant. We need to look at this very, very seriously and ask ourselves and ask Him, “What do You mean by this? And how can I change my life to get rid of the leaven?” For the Jewish people at the time of Passover, they had to remove all the leaven from their homes, get rid of it all. That is what we need to do as well. Get rid of anything that is bad in our lives and fill it with good stuff, fill it with the Lord, with His Word and His truth, so that what we will make for ourselves is what Saint Paul tells us: unleavened loaves without all the filth of the world, without being infiltrated by things that are not good. But rather, we will be truly as the Eucharist, we will become Jesus Christ, and we will be a leaven in the world rather than allowing the world to be the leaven in us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.