Why do your disciples not fast?
Readings: 1st: Am 9:11-15; Ps: 84; Gos: Mt 9:14-17
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, Saturday of the thirteenth week of ordinary time, Mathew presents us the dialogue of John’s disciples with Christ on fasting.
Fasting is an ancient religious piety practiced by almost all religions. Jesus Himself practiced it for forty days (Mt 4:2). However, he does not insist that his disciples do exactly the same thing. Rather, he leaves it free.
At times, it is difficult to see something done contrary to what one used to know as the “normal way.” At such moments, the first reaction is a big shock or surprise. The second is, to conclude that something must be wrong somewhere, or with someone.
Unfortunately, many of us are glued to the way we see things. This is to the extent that, we find it difficult to take advantage of the opportunity that reality presents to us, in order to ask the right questions.
In today’s gospel, John’s disciples could no longer bear what they saw. So, they approached Christ and asked him: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?”
What is at state here is, the question of conformity and strict adherence to the Law. It is question of, why is everybody not doing the same thing at the same time? It is a question of, how are they different from us?
Christ’s responded to them in his usual rhetorical manner: “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.”
This response of Christ suggests that, we do not do things simply because everyone is doing it. Rather, we do it at the appropriate time, and for the right purpose. We do it, because we are convinced of what we are doing.
Of course, Christ was not against fasting. This is because, he had already said: “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Mt 5:17). He himself, fasted for forty days in the desert, in preparation for his own mission.
Through his response, Christ reminds us that he has come to reveal the true purpose of the Law. He has come to “reconcile” the letter of the law, with the spirit of the law.
He has come to lead us to authentic spirituality and, consequently to eternal life through the correct observance of the law.
Peace be with you all!