17TH JANUARY 2022
1 Sm 15: 16-23; Ps 50:8-9.16bc-17.21 and 23. Mk 2:18-22
MEMORIAL OF SAINT ANTHONY, ABBOT
JESUS THE BRIDEGROOM OF THE KINGDOM
Today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ reply to the question raised, perhaps by some well-meaning Pharisees, disciples of John the Baptist, asking why Jesus’ disciples ate and drank and feasted, while they (John the Baptist’s disciples), and the Pharisees in general, fasted and prayed. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving were the three cardinal religious practices — the “good deeds”– of Jewish religious life. Jesus responded to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn clothing, and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compared his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber. These were the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of the bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast.
Jesus assured the questioners that his disciples would fast when he, the bridegroom, was taken away from them. In other words, fasting is necessary when we sin and our union with Christ begins to fade, as happens when we get addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies, leading us to sin. As Catholic Christians, we are uniquely blessed to experience Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. But Joy is the chief characteristic of a Christian – joy even in tribulation. Using the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment, or old wineskins to store new, stillfermenting wine, Jesus told the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which were, in many cases, different from traditional Jewish teachings. Jesus is challenging us to be open to radical transformation so that we may receive him and, with his grace, reflect his love, mercy and forgiveness to others.
We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church, enables the Church to put into practice new visions, new ideas, new adaptations and new ways of worship in place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the Old Testament revelations, the New Testament teachings, and the Sacred Tradition of the Church as main sources of our Christian Faith.