16 January
Mk 2:18-22

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?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 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 unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’

Jewish weddings lasted a full week; the young couple did not go away on a honeymoon, they stayed at home and held open house for all.  It was the happiest week in a person’s life, and there was a rabbinical ruling that went, “All in attendance [at the wedding] are relieved of all religious observances that would lessen their joy.”  Wedding guests were dispensed from all fasting. 

There are very good reasons why a Christian disciple might fast.  But they are reasons; they are not a gloomy and miserly attitude that can appear very religious while being nothing of the sort.  A reason applies at one time and not at another, but an attitude goes on forever.  People who are capable of the deepest joy are also capable of the deepest sadness, because they are responding to life as it comes.  But others become mired forever in a half-way place, experiencing neither joy nor sorrow.  Joy is the chief characteristic of a Christian – “joy even in tribulation,” as Tauler said – and one of the first fruits of the Spirit (see Gal 5:2).



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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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