Good morning, happy Friday, and many blessings.
This is another very short Gospel (Matthew 9:14-15) reading. Today John’s disciples come to Jesus and ask him why he and his disciples don’t fast as John and the Pharisees do. Jesus does not answer their question directly. Rather he uses the metaphor of a wedding. Jesus tells them that at a wedding, the guests do not mourn will the bridegroom is still in their presence. The time for fasting is when the bridegroom is taken away.
John the Baptist and his disciples have their doubts about Jesus. Devout Jews observed regular obligatory fasts and would also undertake private fasting, by way of praying for God’s salvation and hastening the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus wanted to celebrate and socialize with everybody, especially the outcasts, the prodigals, the sinners, to let them know that in him the joyful time of salvation had indeed come.
Perhaps in this Gospel Jesus is speaking of fasting as a way of mourning. Most often when we think of fasting, we equate it with giving up something. It might be choosing not to snack during the day or adding a spiritual discipline to our day. Perhaps we take more time for prayer or we strive to be kinder and more loving with everyone we encounter (including those who get on our nerves). Not all of these are ways of mourning, but they are good disciplines and perhaps challenges for us.
We all realize that it is easy to make Lenten resolutions, but it is not as easy to keep them. The gift is that each morning we have another day to make the effort. What will we choose today?
The disciples of John were good people, but they were genuinely puzzled by the way of life of the disciples of Jesus. There was no hidden agenda in their question. They simply wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus did not fast. The answer of Jesus echoes the message of the Old Testament: “There is a season for everything” …..(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)
Matthew understands fasting to be a sign of mourning. Jesus compares his disciples to wedding guests who rejoice while he, the bridegroom, is still with them. But after he leaves them, they will experience many tribulations and therefore they will have good reasons for fasting. The fasts in question were most likely private fasts undertaken for devotional purposes.
We can often feel like John’s disciples, confused and unsure about what to do. The divisions in the Church upset us. But Jesus is saying: ‘With my coming, a wedding has started; a new creation is under way; be joyful!
John’s disciples are waiting in the wrong place.’ I must stop living in no-people’s land. I must wake up – the savior of the world has come, and I must join him. We can often feel like John’s disciples, confused and unsure about what to do.
Jesus was not out to reform Judaism but to transform Judaism into something new. He was not out to give life to old form but to give life to a new form, a new way to God.