Homily for January 16th, 2017: Mark 2:18-22.
To understand the question about fasting in today’s gospel we must know that for Jesus’ people fasting was a way of mourning. It was also a way of expressing sorrow for sin. Still today observant Jews fast on the Day of Atonement, 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 aware that John the Baptist has taught his disciples to fast. He did so because repentance was central in the Baptist’s 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.
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.) Israel
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 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 you encounter him as a stern judge, before whom you shrink in fear? Or will it be an encounter with a familiar, dearly loved friend? Think about it. Even more importantly – pray about it.