The Gospel Today
Friday after Ash Wednesday
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.”
Reflection (Sem. Ernesto Sican):
We are now in the season of Lent and the gospel is reminding us about the importance of fasting. Fasting is a practice of the Church since her beginning and she continues to teach its importance in our spiritual life. People today fast or practice fasting stripped of its religious meaning. Some would fast for health reason, that is, to lose weight in order to stay fit and maintain a good figure. Fasting is used as a form of diet. Some do it because of economic reason, that is, skipping meals in order to lessen expenses or they cannot afford to provide food for themselves.
Fasting is more than its practical benefits. There is something profound in the practice. Fasting is not depriving ourselves of the things we really like or want to have. It is a way of disciplining our body and mind, to gain control over our desires, to be in solidarity with those who experience hunger. It is hard to understand the situation of the poor, especially those who do not eat three times a day, when we are not able to experience hunger. By denying ourselves with the things that give us comfort and pleasure, we become more sensitive to those who suffer. Fasting then enables our inner disposition to be attuned not to material things but to something spiritual. The exterior mark of fasting is good but it is the interior, what is happening inside that is important. By doing fasting we open ourselves to the Lord. We allow God to realign our life and our sense of direction so that we can follow Him more closely. We give God the chance to direct us, to take control of us not because He wants to enslave us but because He wants us to experience His loving presence in our lives.
In tomorrow’s gospel, the Pharisees questioned Jesus why his disciples do not fast. They strictly observe the law and so they cannot reconcile why other people specially the disciples would not do the same. Stressing too much the letters of the law, they became stiff, rigid and insensitive to others. Jesus is inviting us to rise beyond the letters of the law because the law is made for man and not otherwise. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and as long as Jesus is with us there is no need to fast. Jesus is enough. What we need is to live with Jesus, to be near to Him, and the rest will follow.