February 16, 2021
by David Crawford
Creighton University's Archives
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Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 336

Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10
Psalm 29:1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9c-10
Mark 8:14-21

Praying Ordinary Time

Parish Resources For Lent

A Mardi Gras Prayer

What Can I Do Before Lent Begins?

Cooking Lent: Recipes for Ash Wednesday,
all the Fridays of Lent and for Good Friday

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, so today is the last day before Lent.  For some of you, that means today is Fat Tuesday or Pancake Day, a final chance to eat heartily before entering a fasting season.  For some, today is Shrove Tuesday, a time of self-reflection, repentance and identifying areas for spiritual growth.  I am sure many will both eat heartily and self-examine today. 

Today’s Gospel reading features an intriguing warning from Jesus: “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  Only a small bit of leaven is needed to transform a large batch of bread, so it makes sense to guard against even seemingly inconsequential amounts.  But what did Jesus mean by “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod?”  I have heard and read a number of reasonable and interesting interpretations, but I (and apparently the disciples) are not entirely clear about what Jesus specifically meant – so I am not much help on that front.  In the verses that follow, I see Jesus is warning about some thing, or things, that will harden hearts and make them unreceptive to Him, His message, and His teachings.

As I looked for definitions about leaven (Pharisaic or Herod’s), I learned about Bedikat Chametz.  For Jewish people, preparation for Passover includes removing leaven from the home.  Chametz is the name for leavened food, and the ceremony of Bedikat Chametz is the final search for leaven, which is then burned so that the house is kosher (that is, pure and suitable) for Passover.  This is not just a token gesture.  It is a thorough search that involves shining a light into every nook and cranny to ensure that nothing impure remains.

On this Shrove Tuesday, as we prepare our minds, bodies and souls for the holy season ahead, let us enact our own Bedikat Chametz.  Let us prayerfully examine our lives.  We who follow Jesus – the Light of the World (see John 8:12) – have access to a spiritual light that can shine into the hidden recesses of our hearts.  This may not be comfortable, and I for one am a little nervous about what I will find.  But take comfort!  Jesus is not only the light, He cleans up what we, on our own, can not.

“If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

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