A Time to Feast and a Time to Fast

Mark 2: 18-22
1 Sm 15:16-23 / Psa 50

No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old cloak; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear gets worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.
(Mark 2:21-22)

We can’t go back to worldly ways
If we desire a life renewed.
The worn and torn must be replaced
With faith and love and joy for good.

John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a patch of new cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:18-22)

Reflection

How totally inappropriate it would be indeed if one went to a party but declined to eat the sumptuous food prepared because he was on a fast! But contrary to the belief of the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist, Jesus did fast (Luke 4:2), and even more than their prescribed period. He fasted for 40 days, and unlike the Pharisees who fasted for show, He did it in secret, going to the desert by Himself. And He did it for a more important purpose: to prepare Himself for His ministry.

Jesus used this occasion to give two analogies: “No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old and the tear gets worse.” The ritualistic traditions of the old law were now old cloak. And why on earth would anyone destroy a new cloak by cutting off a piece of its cloth and sewing it unto a torn old cloak? Our Lord was simply implying that His new teachings would never apply to the antiquated and now irrelevant traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees. “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.” (Mk. 2:21-22) His detractors Jesus also likened to old wineskins. Their teachings had become stiff and unyielding, the reason why their inflexibility could not allow them to accept Jesus’ Good News of salvation.

Today’s Gospel applies well to the changes that our Church has undergone through the ages. The celebration of the Mass, for instance, was said in Latin for centuries, but now it is said in different languages all over the world. Many of the functions of the Church clergy have been delegated to laymen, like the distribution of the Holy Eucharist, and the mission of evangelization.

The lesson that Jesus taught the Jews then still applies to the present generation: that all things must be applicable to or compatible with the present need. Practices of the past are no longer appropriate or relevant to modern situations. The difference between wisdom and folly is the ability to see what is appropriate, what fits where and when. Fasting would be an exercise in futility if we do not practice charity and kindness to the poor and those in need. Only those who do are the ones who keep in their hearts the hope of eternal life with the “Bridegroom” in God’s kingdom.

Father God, it is not our sacrifices that are pleasing to You, but our obedience to Your covenant of love. Help us Lord to imitate our Savior Jesus. Amen.

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