Daily Reflection, February 24, 2023


Isaiah 58:1-9a
Matthew 9:14-15


How did the Jews of Jesus’ time understand fasting? In the Jewish culture, it was widely assumed that a person who fasted was righteous; and those who were righteous would fast. Thus, the opposite was also held that if you didn’t fast, you were unrighteous, and if you were unrighteous, you didn’t fast.

So, when John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” are they simply curious or are they questioning the righteousness of Jesus’ disciples?

Jesus spoke to them by a parable and said, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?” Jesus is the bridegroom who is sharing a time of celebration with his disciples so there is no need to fast at this time. But he goes on to say, “But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” There will be a time for Jesus’ disciples to fast. But it is not now.

Today’s Gospel embraces a concept that many of us have a difficult time grasping: the act and practice of fasting. As we know, Lent is a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer means prayer; that’s pretty straightforward. Almsgiving refers to acts of charity or generosity. And fasting, in our modern understanding, refers to going without something, especially something on which we’ve become dependent, something we think we can’t live without, or something that distracts us from God.

The main thing we need to remember this Lent is that it is a time for us to turn back to God, to experience conversion and repentance.

Joanne McGrath is a parishioner of St Brigid’s Marrickville and a Passionist Companion.

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