February 15, 2011 - Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Our first reading today is the story of Noah and the Ark. We will have more from this story tomorrow, but there is a preliminary comment to be made today. Many people regard this story as fanciful, as fictional. Many atheists spend considerable time trying to prove how ridiculous the idea is, bringing up facts like how much an elephant eats in a year. Then there are some Christians who work hard to prove that it is possible after all, calculating the food supply and many other such things. I am sure this can be an interesting task, and there are people who waste their time on sillier things, but we do not need to be defensive. Noah on the Ark is not like if you or I tried to do the same thing tomorrow in the middle of the lake. Noah was fulfilling God’s command. God does not command us to do something impossible without making it possible. Whether there is a way to arrange everything, or if God just made the food last by a miracle, there is no question that Noah’s Ark was possible. It was just as much God’s Ark. This is true of all the miracles of the Bible that seem impossible, unbelievable. Unless it was too much for God (and what is?) questioning whether it really happened is pointless.

Jesus makes a similar point today, not his first but his second. First he says, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Jesus is telling them to guard against two errors: on the one hand there are the self-righteous hypocrites and on the other there are the self-indulgent aristocrats. It is very difficult to walk the narrow path where we agree that sin is sin but do not spend our time judging others.

The disciples, however, misunderstand. They believe that Jesus is being literal and telling them not to buy bread from either of these two groups. Jesus sets aside his first point for the moment and points out to the disciples that even if there were a problem with bread, he would not be giving them shopping advice. The disciples are calculating how to feed a dozen people with one loaf of bread. Jesus says, “Forget about it. I am here. When I am here, there are not going to be any problems, least of all with bread. Haven’t you noticed what I can do?”