One day, when the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting, some people asked Jesus, «Why is it that both the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but yours do not?». Jesus answered, «How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and on that day they will fast.
»No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, for the wine would burst the skins and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!».
Most of us are taught to be politically correct and do exactly what all others are doing. What is normal and correct, as established by the society, is what is expected from us. Today Jesus is teaching another lesson, which is the heart of every act and thinking.
We are asked not to follow the tradition simply because it exists, rather, put our intelligence and be totally responsible for our acts and thinking. He gives the reason why his disciple won’t do the fasting today and they will certainly do one day.
Jesus seems to teach us the humility to listen to the Word of God and do all that the Lord asks us today. We are called to perfection in every deed, with conviction and certitude. It is good to mix up things, putting everything in confusion. We need some clarity in our thinking and coherence in our act. Jesus is reminding us a very important lesson that we are unique and not called to be just like others. Let us have the joy of being different.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers:
The presence of the Bridegroom, by Bede the Venerable, 672-735 A.D.
"From the time that the incarnation of our Saviour was first promised to the patriarchs, it was always awaited by many upright souls with tears and mourning - until he came. From that time when, after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven, all the hope of the saints hangs upon his return. It was at the time when he was keeping company with humanity that his presence was to be celebrated. Then it would have been unfitting to weep and mourn. For like the bride, she had him with her bodily whom she loved spiritually. Therefore the bridegroom is Christ, the bride is the church, and the friends of the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15, Luke 5:34) and of the marriage are each and every one of his faithful companions. The time of his marriage is that time when, through the mystery of the incarnation, he is joining the holy church to himself (Revelation 19:7). Thus it was not by chance, but for the sake of a certain mystical meaning that he came to a marriage ceremony on earth in the customary fleshly way (John 2:1-12), since he descended from heaven to earth in order to wed the church to himself in spiritual love. His nuptial chamber was the womb of his virgin mother. There God was conjoined with human nature. From there he came forth like a bridegroom to join the church to himself." (excerpt from HOMILIES ON THE GOSPELS 1.14)
«How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?»
Fr. Joaquim VILLANUEVA i Poll
Today, we can see that, besides fasting on the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev 16:29-34), the Jewish people observe many other days of fasting, both public and private. Days of fast manifested mourning, penance, purification, preparation for a feast or a mission, demand of God's grace, etc. Pious Jews considered fasting an act of virtue of their religion which pleased God. One who fasts addresses God in an attitude of humility; he implores forgiveness for his separation from God while depriving himself of those things that often cause the separation.
That Jesus does not instill this practice into his disciples and followers comes as a surprise for John's disciples and for the Pharisees. They cannot understand it. But Jesus gives them a fundamental reason: «How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?» (Mk 2:19). For Israel's prophets, the bridegroom signifies God himself, faithful Yahweh, and his divine love for men (in contrast to Israel, his not always so faithful spouse). Hence, Jesus is tantamount to Yahweh, and He here declares his divinity: he calls his disciples «the bridegroom's friends», and those who are with him do not need to fast for they are not separated from him.
The Church has remained faithful to Christ's teaching on fasting which, though coming from the prophets and even being a natural and spontaneous practice in many religions, our Lord confirms with a new meaning. Fasting can be used as preparation; it strengthens prayer and contemplation. Jesus fasts in the desert as a preparation for his public life.
Many poor people, not unacquainted with shabby clothes were among those who listened to our Lord. So too were vintners who certainly knew what happens when the new wine is put into old wineskins. Jesus reminds them all that they have to receive his message with a new spirit, one that breaks with conformity and the routines of jaded souls; Jesus proposes something entirely different, not another version of the Law, but a new life altogether.