Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (2: 18-22) in which the Pharisees question Jesus about fasting; ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’ they asked.Fr Paul says today’s reading comes from Mark’s collection of several confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees in Galilee. The Pharisees were sticklers for observance of the practices of the Jewish Law. Fasting was originally a sign of sorrow and repentance –in more modern terms, if you are really upset, like when there is a death in the family, then naturally we don’t want to eat much. Presumably, the disciples of John the Baptist also fasted as part of their change of lifestyle or conversion in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Jesus’ reply shows that the joyful moment of the coming of the Messiah, the coming of the Kingship of God, has already burst upon them. It is not a time for mourning but for an explosion of joy. He appeals to the idea of the splendid wedding-feast, to be celebrated when the sovereignty of God is completed and God’s love for his people sealed in a marriage-bond. But we also hear Jesus adding a warning that a time is coming when the bridegroom will be taken away. Is he referring to his own passion and death, or to a time of seeming absence of Christ from his Church? Then comes a group of images, perhaps sayings of Jesus originally independent, all teaching that our behaviour must be totally new: it is no good mixing new habits with old. Fr Paul closes with today’s Gospel lesson – Any life, even the life of Jesus, is filled with ups and downs and confrontations but we always need to remember that God loves us.
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