One Loaf of Bread

“One Loaf of Bread”
A reflection on Mark 8:14-21
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time 
©2022 by Gloria M. Chang

They had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. He 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?”

Mark 8:14-21

Jesus and his disciples sailed on different wavelengths as they pulled out to sea. Mark cryptically writes that the disciples had “forgotten to bring bread,” yet “they had only one loaf with them in the boat.” Christ is the loaf, according to one commentatorial tradition. 

The one who fed thousands with five and seven loaves, Jews and Gentiles respectively, unites the whole world in himself. Jesus is the one loaf of bread broken for all.

Jesus’ warning to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod—their lies and falsehood—was misunderstood by the hungry disciples to refer to their lack of bread. Minds, hearts, eyes and ears distracted by material concerns reduced Christ’s weighty words to their immediate need for food. 

After the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, should not the faith of the disciples have grown profoundly? Mark portrays the Twelve as slow to understand and grasp the spiritual significance of Jesus’ signs and wonders. 

“Do you still not understand?” Jesus’ question echoes in their ears as they head toward Bethsaida where a blind man will regain his sight in gradual steps rather than instantaneously, much like the dull hearts of the disciples.

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