Two weeks ago, I was driving through the countryside. It was a perfect sparkler of…
In Monday’s Gospel, Mark 2:18-22, the people ask Jesus, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered,
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.”
When Jesus spoke of the bridegroom being with them, He was referring to His physical presence with His disciples and alluding to the fact that the day would come when He would ascend to the Father and no longer be physically present. His analogy of the wedding feast made sense to His followers. But what does it mean for us today who have never experienced the physical presence of the Bridegroom? How do we interpret and follow His instruction to fast only when the Bridegroom is “taken away” from us? As I reflected on this Gospel passage, I found two possible interpretations of how the Bridegroom is with us now and how He is sometimes “taken away”.
One obvious interpretation is His bodily and spiritual Presence in the Eucharist. Holy Mass is the wedding feast of the Bride and the Bridegroom. The Lord wants us to rejoice when we are united to His physical presence in the Eucharist. This caused me to reflect on the Church’s teaching that Sundays are to be a day of worship, celebration, rest, and leisure. What if I began to think of Sundays as a day spent in the physical presence of Jesus, my Bridegroom, Whom I have received in the Eucharist? How might I spend my time differently if I was conscious of Jesus being here with me; desiring to rest and relax, to worship God and celebrate His goodness with me?
I also reflected on what Jesus’ words in this Gospel might mean in relation to what I know to be true about His abiding presence within my heart and soul. The Bridegroom is always with me in Spirit. He has promised that He makes His home within those who love Him and follow His commandments. Does this mean He does not want me to ever fast? No. We know the power of prayer joined with the sacrifices required in fasting. Perhaps, Jesus is not speaking to us about the physical act of fasting from food.
I understand times of desolation and times of sin as examples of when the Bridegroom is “taken away” from me and the spiritual hunger I experience is analogous to fasting. His Spirit never leaves me, but in these times my spiritual sensitivity is darkened or hindered and my awareness of His presence is inhibited. My heart, and even my mind and body, weep and mourn, ache and long, and in essence fast. In these times, rejoicing and praise truly become a sacrifice, an offering made with great effort. I feel more like one of the five foolish virgins who has been locked out of the wedding feast.
And yet, I trust in His merciful love and His desire for union with me. And I wait with expectant hope for the return of the Bridegroom. If it is my sin that has taken the Bridegroom away, I run to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, into the everlasting arms of forgiveness and mercy.
We may not have the physical presence of our Bridegroom in the way the disciples did but the Bridegroom is very much with us, in the Eucharist and in His dwelling within the heart of our hearts. May we rejoice and celebrate His loving presence… here and now.
Together in His Heart,
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them,
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If he does, its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined.
Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”