Don’t You Understand?
Why is it that we humans struggle with understanding certain things about life, technology, relationships, politics, and the list goes on and on? Well, it’s got everything to do with different experiences, different upbringing, different priorities, and so on.
But what if there was a basic understanding that was fundamentally common to all humans, something meant to be so basic and so fundamental that every human could and should understand it?
Misunderstanding something that basic could have huge consequences! And, you know what, there is something that is fundamental to every human, no matter when or where they’re from, the language they speak, the culture they were raised in, the amount of education they have, or even their economic status. This fundamental Truth common to all people affects everything about them and ripples through time, nations, cultures, and societies!
Look at our lesson today in Mark 8:11-21:
At that time, the Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side. Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.” And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Jesus is warning His disciples about the “leaven of the Pharisees.” And immediately the disciples think He’s talking about the fact they have no bread! Talk about slow on the uptake! Come on, boys, plugin! OK, wait a minute, before we are too hard on the disciples, how many times have we missed the clear meaning of the Faith when it’s right there in front of us? The Lord here is warning the disciples not to fall into the trap the Pharisees had fallen into. These religious and pious men had become so enamored by doing things for God they forgot to actually love God! In fact, what motivated their behavior was actually self-love that had reduced the Faith meant for the whole world to some tribal religion exclusively belonging to the “right people.”
So, what keeps us from understanding the central message of the Faith that is meant for everyone created in God’s image?
First, we misunderstand when we live distracted lives. The disciples were focused on what they didn’t have, that inattentiveness, distracted them from what they already had – God in the Flesh among them to lead them to true LIFE!
Next, we misunderstand when we measure everything by ourselves rather than by God. Too often what trips me up in understanding is my focus on myself – what’s in it for me, how can I benefit from this – and so on. When that happens, I lose the ability to focus on God, and my mind is gripped by too small a vision!
Finally, we misunderstand when we forget all God has done for us in our lives. My bad memory of God’s faithfulness steals my ability to remain grateful and I get captured by fear and doubt!
St. Daniel was one of the saints who was named “the Stylite.” These were saints who radically practiced spiritual disciplines by subjecting themselves to living on a platform raised from the earth. Some had platforms with con=vering; others chose to subject themselves to the elements, all in a desire to strip away all ease to focus exclusively on devotion to Christ. We moderns will look at this radical path and say it is foolish, unpractical, attention-seeking, or any other number of dismissals to ignore or misunderstand what these saints are trying to teach us. St. Daniel became a monk at age 12 near Constantinople, the Royal Captial of the Roman Empire. He was a strict ascetic, and many miracles of healing occurred from his holy prayers. Even the Patriarch, the holy and noble St. Anatolius, was healed through St. Daniel’s ministry. St. Daniel eventually ascended his platform for the last 33 years of his life. He would stand unmoving in all kinds of weather praying and seeking God. He became the counselor of Emperors, noblemen, and common folk. He fell asleep in the Lord at age 84 in the year 490 AD. These radical saints are meant to jar us into understanding the true value of the One Goal for our lives. What would your life look like if you believed the message of the Faith so completely that it transformed your life?
Today, do you find yourself misunderstanding your life? Are you forgetful of God’s faithfulness, and do you get distracted by small things so that you miss really important things? You’re not alone! Why not stop right now, take a few minutes, and refocus your mind, heart, and life on God, Who knows you, loves you, and wants you to understand what’s really important! Enter into this Festal preparation and, once again, rejoice that God has come in the Flesh to make you a whole person! It’s all about Living a Normal Orthodox Life.
P.S. You became a pillar of patience and did emulate the Forefathers, O righteous one: Job in his sufferings, Joseph in temptations, and the life of the bodiless while in the body, O Daniel, our righteous Father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
A Special Message from Fr. Barnabas: This Preparation Season is meant to help us reorder our attention so we are able to celebrate Christmas well! In fact, the heart of Faith Encouraged Ministries is to be a help to you every day in staying attentive to the Purpose for your Faith and Life. Are we doing our job? Tell us by emailing Fr. Barnabas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our year-end giving campaign is happening now and we want to hear from you! Click the image below to make your gift today!