A Time of Fasting

Scripture Reading

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.”
(Matthew 9:14-15)

Scripture Study

The disciples of John the Baptist continue as a group after their master’s imprisonment (4:12). Given John’s commitment to an ascetic way of life (3:4) that included fasting (11:18), they perhaps look with suspicion on Jesus’ disciples for feasting with sinners and tax collectors (9:10), and question whether they are truly committed to pursuing righteousness.

In response, Jesus describes himself as a bridegroom, thus applying to himself an Old Testament image for God in his relationship to Israel (Isa 62:4–5). A wedding feast is a very joyous occasion, and the mournful tone of fasting would not be fitting as long as the bridegroom is with them. In the future Christ’s disciples will fast, when the bridegroom is taken away from them. This is Christ’s first hint of his passion, echoing Isa 53:8.

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel we see the disciples of John the Baptist wonder why Jesus and his disciples do not fast as John and his disciples do. It is true that, by comparison, Jesus had a freer, more worldly, less obviously “religious” style. He didn’t sequester himself like the Essenes; he didn’t insist on ritual and legal purity like the Pharisees; and, it seems, he didn’t fast and live a life of austerity like John and his followers.

And so they ask why he doesn’t encourage fasting among his followers. Jesus’ answer is wonderful: “How can the guests at a wedding fast while the groom is still with them?” Could you imagine people fasting at a wedding banquet? Could you imagine going into an elegant room with your fellow guests and being served bread and water? It would be ridiculous! This great image of the wedding feast comes up frequently in the New Testament, most obviously in the wedding feast at Cana narrative.

That’s because Jesus is, in himself, the wedding of heaven and earth, the marriage of divinity and humanity; he is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. In him, the most intimate union is achieved between God and the world.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.