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In the Boat with the Lord

By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC


The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus 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?"

The Gospel of St. Mark 8:14-21


The Early Fathers of the Christian Church regularly wrote in an allegorical style. Western minds often miss the point. We are limited by our near adoration of the “scientific method” and fail to grasp symbol and the multi-layered revelation of truth.

In this passage (as well as in other Biblical passages where we meet Jesus in a boat) the fathers invite us to see more deeply into the meaning and call of discipleship in our own lives. In order to do so, we need the “eyes to see” that Jesus speaks of in the passage upon which we now reflect. Those eyes are the eyes of faith. They only come through an authentic, cultivated relationship with Him in prayer. Prayer is a dynamic way of living our lives in the Lord and in His presence.

The fathers of the Church help us to understand that this boat is the Church, the “New Ark.”

Picture this scene now, in that light. Here, God Incarnate, in the flesh, is in the Church with His disciples, instructing them on their missionary work. He is warning them of the “leaven”, the subtle and dangerous influence of those who are corrupted by power. Yet, they do not understand. They are focused instead on whether they have enough physical “bread” to eat.

Sound familiar? It should.

This is often the pattern of our own lives. How often do we fail to recognize that He is truly with us? How often do we actually grasp the fundamental truth that being baptized into Him now means that we live our lives in communion with Him? Have we come to “see” that through Him we participate in the very life of God and are invited into the “mystery” that is the Trinitarian communion? Do we live as though we believe that, in Him, we are now joined to one another?

Here is the truth. We live our lives now in the Boat, in the Church, and we travel along the waters of the world, fishing for men and women with Christ who is our Captain. We need not fear. He is at the helm. No matter how rough the waters become, or how battered the hull of this Boat may seem as it sails its course through time, it is His Boat.

The disciples failed to understand deeper realities, the realities that can only be seen in the light of faith. The One in the boat with them is the “Bread of Life” and that “One Loaf” they had brought with them, when placed in His hands, forms the substance for a miracle. When we give what we have - He gives who He is. He feeds us on Himself. He is the living bread come down from heaven and the true “One Loaf” is the Eucharist, given to His Body, the Church.

That Church is still called to continue His redemptive mission. We are the members of that Body and the workers, the fishers of men and women, the ones sent on mission.

Finally, the disciples in this story failed to “understand the loaves.” He reminds them –and us- of the miracles of multiplication, but even more, of the truths they reveal about a God who always provides. When we follow Jesus Christ, when we place His plan and His purpose first, there will ALWAYS be enough “bread” for all of our physical, spiritual, relational and financial needs.

Do we understand? Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear? We are in the Boat today and He is there with us. We are invited to focus on Him, the One who is Himself the provision of heaven, the Bread of Life and not on our lack.

For in the Boat with the Lord, Love always provides.


Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon, who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is a co-founder of the Your Catholic Voice Movement and the founder of Common Good.


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Discipleship, Jesus, Disciple

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