8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 2, 2003
Hosea 2:16-17,21-22 II:
18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and
said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees
fast, but your disciples do not fast?"
19 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom
is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot
20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then
they will fast in that day.
21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the
patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.
22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will
burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is
for fresh skins."
In the Gospel readings of this week (Mk 2:18-22) and next week (Mk 2:23-27),
Jesus defended the conduct of his disciples.
- (v.18) Fasting was a common ritual in the OT. Sometimes it was an
expression of mourning and a symbol of sorrow. More often it was an act of
contrition and penitence. Combined with prayer, fasting was an expression of
self-denial and submissive to God's will.
- (vv.19-20) Jesus responded to the question by posing a counter-question.
He used the wedding analogy to make a point. The important issue is not
"whether" to fast, but "when" to fast.
- (vv.21-22) The two parabolic sayings are drawn from folk wisdom regarding
the mismatch of the old and the new orders. The contrast between the old and
the new corresponds to the tension between the conduct of John's and Jesus'
disciples. John came preaching repentance and a lifestyle befitting
repentance before God in view of the coming judgment. Jesus came preaching
the good news of God's salvation through healing and forgiveness. This
manifested in Jesus' ministry to the sick and his table fellowship with the
sinners. Consequently, fasting was not an appropriate lifestyle for the
disciples of Jesus as it was for John's disciples.
One Main Point
Jesus challenges his hearers to recognize the necessary change in attitude
which the coming of the Kingdom required.
- Do I find fasting and penance helpful for my spiritual growth?
- Am I willing to let go of my rigidity like the old wineskin to take on
the new life that Jesus offer?
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A synthesis by the Vietnamese Christian Life (Dong Hanh) Community