Monday, January 18, 2021
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the question about why his disciples don’t fast to reveal that He is not just another itinerant preacher, not just another prophet ministering to a downtrodden, persecuted Jewish people. With the earlier incident of healing the paralytic, he called himself the Son of Man, with authority to forgive sins. If that wasn’t alarming enough for the Pharisees, Jesus now claims to have no need to obey the religious tradition of fasting. In essence, Jesus is saying that he is above the Law. Worse yet from the Pharisees perspective, he is gaining many followers and slowly stripping away their power and influence.
But what is Jesus really telling the Pharisees? Jesus is not putting himself above the Law. He is not looking to “overthrow” the Pharisees and gain all their power. Rather, Jesus is revealing to those Jewish leaders that he is the fulfillment of the Law.
The Jews practiced and obeyed their laws and traditions because they were preparing for the coming of the Messiah, the one who would restore Israel as a great nation and a blessed people. The practice of fasting was a purification rite, meant to cleanse them of their impurities so they will be worthy when the Messiah comes. Jesus is telling them, “Hello, I’m here. It’s me, the One you’ve been waiting for!” His reference to the bridegroom and his friends signals to the Jews that it is time for a celebration. It is time to have a feast, not a fast.
Jesus is the unshrunken cloth, that needs to be sewn together with others whose minds and hearts have not yet become hard and unyielding in their ways. Jesus is the new wine. His Gospel of love and mercy needs to fill a new heart and mind that can grow and be stretched in new ways of living and loving.
Jesus’ followers believed in Him and His power to forgive, heal, and love. Those followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees had a hard time accepting Jesus, because he offered a way of life that challenged their current beliefs and practices. The challenge to change their view of what a Messiah should be threatened their current situation.
That is the question Jesus poses to us in today’s Gospel. Are we willing to follow Jesus and change our desires for what He should do for us? Do we treat Jesus as just another “self-help” option? Are we willing to have our hearts, minds, and actions conformed to His will?
Let’s move forward today with a new willingness to be stretched, molded, and conformed to the life of Christ within us. Let’s enjoy the feast of being with Him at the Eucharistic celebration. But let us also recognize when it is time for us to fast and purify ourselves from the sins that keep us separated from Him.
Today’s Questions for Prayer and Reflection:
In what areas of my life am I clinging on to past beliefs and practices that prevent me from fully appreciating the love of Jesus? What can I do to bring others to the Bride of Christ, His Church?