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The question about fasting

Gospel reading: Mt 9:14-17

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

New wine into fresh wineskins

Fasting – abstaining entirely from or limiting food – serves a number of purposes, from purely medical reasons to more spiritual or religious ones. As a religious or spiritual exercise, fasting can heighten one’s sense of dependence on God or of solidarity with those who hunger and thirst. But it is not in harmony with a joyous event: people celebrate – not fast – when they are happy and jubilant because of an important joyful occasion.

Thus, Jesus’ response to those who ask why his disciples do not fast underlines this point. Using three images, Jesus seems to be saying that his coming is an occasion to celebrate, for he brings good news and salvation. He is the bridegroom who has come and, therefore, there can only be feasting and merrymaking, not fasting. Otherwise, as the two other images show, it will be like patching a new piece of cloth into an old one, or pouring new wine into old wineskins, which, in both cases, can result in waste or ruin. It is therefore important to discern what action is in harmony with a particular situation.

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God can make all things new. But do we want to be renewed or do we prefer to continue to be our old selves?

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.