In our Gospel today, Jesus tells the disciples to “guard against the leaven of the Pharisees.” His statement might seem strange to us, since it was strange to the disciples at the time, but He explains it by referring to the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. At the very least, this seems like an invitation for the disciples to trust in the care and providence of God rather than in that of the Pharisees. But beyond this, it is a call to faith in the extraordinary power and care of God, capable of multiplying food whenever it is needed.

St. James calls back to this same summons in his epistle, when he speaks of “all good giving and every perfect gift” as coming from the Father, who does not tempt us but gives us the light of truth. This is a hopeful message to take with us into the Lenten season, which begins tomorrow. We will have many opportunities to remember our sins and the ways in which we have offended God, and this is good and healthy. At the same time, these readings on the last day of Ordinary Time give us an opportunity to appreciate the magnificent providence of God, who constantly wants to give us good things, well beyond our expectations.

Perhaps this is why Jesus refers to the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand in the Gospel. He does not simply refer to His own authority or to the convincing nature of His teaching, but instead refers to recent miracles that He performed in the presence of the crowds. He is reminding His disciples that the temptations and teachings of the world will not save them or even satisfy their expectations. It is the miraculous intervention of God that they need, and it is the miraculous intervention of God that they can actually expect, as Christ has proven to them so recently.

As we go through the Lenten season, it would be helpful for us to remember this fact, that God has many miracles reserved for those who ask Him. We are burdened by our sins, and we must truly respond to God’s goodness with contrite and humble faith. Once we have done this, acknowledging His goodness, holiness, and sovereignty, we ought to feel free to ask Him for those things that are good for us, even if we would not expect those things from our fellow men.

God stands ready to surpass our expectations in this Lenten season and at all times. He continues to perform miracles to this very day, both individually and on the grand scale in places like Lourdes, Fatima, and Mexico City (Our Lady of Guadalupe), to mention only a few of the more prominent examples. There is no reason not to expect the same from Him for those of us who earnestly seek him with a humble and contrite heart, prepared to receive Him through our Lenten observance.

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