True Fasting of Love

Mark 2: 18-22

1Sm 15:16-23/Ps 50:8-9,16-17,21,23

. . . no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
(Mark 2:22)

Everything has its time and place,

With eyes of love must life be viewed.

We can’t go back to our old ways

Now that our life has been renewed.

Now 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 fast, but yours do 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 unshrunk 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 lost. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:18-22)

Reflection

The Pharisees were always quick to criticize the “new ways” of the Messiah, which they saw were contrary to their traditional beliefs and traditions. But Jesus did fast, going without food than any of them could have endured (Luke 4:2), far 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 for a different purpose: to prepare Himself for His ministry.

What was the lesson that Jesus was imparting to the Jews in His parable about the wedding feast, the patching of a torn garment and the wine skins (which also applies to our present generation)? It was that all things must be applicable to or compatible with the present need. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Practices of the past may no longer be appropriate or relevant to modern situations.

The traditional ways that the Pharisees adhered to in expressing their loyalty to the laws of Moses were expressed through external practices like fasting. But the Way of Jesus goes to a totally different route to the Father. It is primarily “in secret”, or manifested in interior ways. He uses a wedding feast to emphasize the importance of relationships based on love, not in the observance of laws or rituals.

Our Lord’s teaching is not lost in His disciples who have acquired the wisdom to see what is appropriate, what fits where and when. For instance, observing traditional forms of worship like receiving the sacraments or praying novenas, tithing, or fasting would all be empty rituals if we do not practice charity and kindness to the poor and those who are in dire need. This must be the reason why God allows natural disasters and human sufferings to happen, so that we can practice the acts of love as demonstrated by Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, and the many saints before them. Only if we live Christ’s covenant of love will we have every reason to celebrate, for like the saints we will have discovered and will always keep in our 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, Who showed us the importance of discipline, and the example of complete obedience to Your will. Amen.

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