Friday, July 1, 2016

A QUESTION ABOUT FASTING


Homily for July 2nd, 2016: Matthew 9:14-17.

          To understand the question about fasting in today’s gospel we must know that in Judaism fasting is a way of mourning. It is also a way of expressing sorrow for sin. Still today observant Jews fast on the Day of Atonement, when God’s people fast to express sorrow for the sins they have committed in the past year. The people who ask Jesus why his disciples do not fast are disciples of John the Baptist. He taught them to fast, because repentance was central in his preaching.

          Responding to the question about why Jesus has not taught his disciples to fast, he replies simply that as long as he is with them, fasting is inappropriate. This is a time not for mourning, Jesus says, but for joy. God has come to earth in human form. Taking up a theme which is frequent in the Old Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom. Israel’s prophets said repeatedly that despite the sins of God’s people, God would not always remain estranged from them. He was going to invite them to a joyful banquet, a symbol of unity between God and humans. (See Isaiah 25.)

          This invitation is renewed every time Mass is celebrated. Despite our unworthiness God uses us priests to extend his invitation: “Everything is ready; come to the feast.” God, the host at this banquet, longs to have you with him. He wants to fill you with his goodness, his power, his purity, his love. 

          He cannot fill you unless you come.

          He cannot fill you unless you are empty.

He cannot fill you unless you confess your need, which means preparing by acknowledging your unworthiness.

          How often have you heard this invitation before? How often will you hear it again? One day you will hear it for the last time. Then you will receive another invitation: to appear before your divine Master, your King, your Creator, your ever loving Lord. Will that encounter fill you with fear and dread? Or will you overjoyed to encounter a dearly loved friend? The Lord in his goodness allows us to choose. It is the most important choice we shall ever have.