The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “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 days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”
Jesus came to lead us into a bright future by introducing us to his Father, an amazing God. He did not come to correct the past, or change it. He was sure that his Father is still pleased with us and continues to love us. Nor is he here to give us a new beginning. Yet there is a newness in the way he loved us, and the way he continues to love us.
The people of Israel had the prophets and the law. Today, in Jesus, all are gathered together, like a new wine, with great respect for all the varieties, without losing the particularity of their characters. It is not good to impose Jesus in a past or to compare him with a great prophet, even with the Father Creator. Jesus leads us towards an adventure, inviting us all to participate in the joy of the Bridegroom, totally unknown to the general public, reserved for saints and contemplatives. Are we ready for this adventurous life?
Action of the day: Liberate yourself from your past and accept an adventurous life.
“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: “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.