It is overwhelming, the beauty of the visuals offered in today’s gospel, although the first part about fasting makes me scratch my head. When I was little and Catholic, we had to fast for three hours before receiving communion. I never questioned this, and accepted it as the law. But I never really understood the purpose of it either. When the church changed the fast to one hour, I remember feeling some relief! Fasting in the Old Testament was a natural reaction to grief over losing a loved one, or was meant to chasten or humble the soul hoping to bring God’s favor. It was also done to commemorate special occasions. Jesus tried to tell them that because they hadn’t done the will of the Lord, their fasting was to no avail.
I fasted once, after I had read about the children of Madjegore, and how the Blessed Virgin had asked them to fast several days a week. So I fasted one day with only bread and water. I’ve been told that fasting allows one to focus more on prayer, and although I managed to fast that day, with great difficulty I might add, I was convinced that I was not a candidate for this. Had I gone into it with a clearer purpose and proper spiritual direction, I might have experienced more than just extreme hunger. There are ways to fast, and I have found that I do it best by eating smaller, more frequent meals, more fruit and veggies and eliminating sweets for the most part. The one weakness I haven’t been able to overcome, is the occasional drive-thru to Wendy’s for a combo meal with fries.
The point being, I don’t have to invite God’s grace by starving myself. Perhaps if I am conflicted with an addiction or infatuation with any one thing or person, obsessed with thoughts that prevent me from being in constant relationship with God, than it’s time to fast. Jesus fasted in times of temptation. His prayer and fasting, done hand-in-hand allowed him a deeper, more intimate conversation for guidance from his Father. It was a time when he desperately needed God’s help. When I spend time reflecting on the Gospel, I feel I have fasted, by cutting out things of this world. It allows me to continue my weekly tasks with renewed purpose.
Finally, I love the story of the wedding and the wine. A wedding is a joyful event whereas fasting is an expression of mourning. Weddings and wine were common symbols of the time for salvation. It underlined the immense joy the disciples had, being with their master. Jesus’ presence with his disciples is like a wedding, when fasting is totally out of place. But when he dies, then fasting will be in order. The metaphors of new wine in old wineskins tells us that Jesus regarded his ministry as incompatible with the existing Judaism. Jesus’ point is that you don’t mix Law and Gospel. Now that our Bridegroom has come and has already betrothed himself to us, we should not go back to a way dictated by human rules and traditions.
I wish you not only good health so you can keep on going, deep love so your heart may be filled, but also enough challenges to keep you humble and enough pain to remind you of your blessings. This weekend when I toast the New Year with champagne, I’ll be reminded that I won’t mix the new wine with the old wineskin, for I have been saved.
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