Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(I Samuel 9:1-4.17-19.10:1; Mark 2:13-17)

In yesterday’s gospel Jesus changes the water into fine wine at Cana. The story suggests not only the power of Jesus but, even more so, his majesty. Thinking about it, we see him as the choice vintage that delights the whole world. Today’s gospel, written by a different evangelist, relates a similar idea. Jesus is the new wine which requires a whole new way of living on the part of his followers.

The people who approach Jesus asking why the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast while his disciples feast, of course, miss the point. They see Jesus as a teacher of God’s law, not the law incarnate. They are ready to criticize his disciples, but, to make an analogy, how can one not leave a performance of “The Sound of Music” without humming “Edelweiss”? That’s what Jesus means when he tells the questioners that his disciples cannot accompany the joyous Jesus without celebrating.

But, then, should we followers ever fast? Some Gospel scholars believe that Jesus would not have us do so. They say that the second part of the passage in which Jesus speaks of fasting after he leaves his disciples is an addition to the original prohibition of fasting. Some might add that Jesus is always present in the Eucharist, in the Scriptures, in the poor, and in one another. This latter is true but not convincing. We should fast with Jesus during periods such as Lent. We also fast as a way to express our love for him as we might take pains to cook a meal for a friend. His sacramental presence, after all, is not completely satisfying. We long to see him face-to-face.