1) Opening prayer
Father of heaven and earth,
hear our prayers,
and show us the way to Your peace in the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 2:18-22
The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus and objected, "Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."
• The five conflicts between Jesus and the religious authority. In Mark 2:1-12 we have seen the first conflict. It was about the forgiveness of sins. In Mark 2:13-17, the second conflict is on communion around the same table, with sinners. Today’s Gospel presents the third conflict concerning fasting. Tomorrow we have the fourth conflict concerning the observance of the Sabbath (Mk 2:13-28). The day after tomorrow is the last conflict concerning the cure on the Sabbath (Mk 3:1-6). The conflict concerning fasting has a central place. For this reason, the words on sewing a piece of new cloth on an old cloak and the new wine into fresh skins (Mk 2:21-22) should be understood in the light which also radiates clearly on the other conflicts, two before and two after.
• Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient practice, practiced by practically all religions. Jesus himself practiced it during forty days (Mt 4:2). But He does not insist with His disciples that they do the same thing. He leaves them free. This is why the disciples of John the Baptist and those of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting.
• When the bridegroom is with them they do not have to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the bridegroom, that is, during the wedding feast, they do not need to fast. Jesus considers himself the bridegroom. The disciples are the friends of the bridegroom During the time in which Jesus is with the disciples, there is the wedding feast. A day will come in which the bridegroom will be absent and then, if they wish, they can fast. Jesus refers to His death. He knows and feels that if He wishes to continue on this path of freedom, the religious authority will want to kill Him.
• To sew a new piece of cloth on an old cloak, pour new wine in new skins. These two affirmations of Jesus, which Mark places here, clarify the critical attitude of Jesus before religious authority. One does not sew a piece of new cloth on an old cloak. When the cloak is washed, the new piece of cloth tears the cloak and the tear becomes bigger. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because the fermentation of the new wine will tear the old skins. New wine in new skins! The religion defended by the authority was like an old cloak, like an old skin. It is not necessary to want to change what is new and brought by Jesus, for old customs. The concepts brought by Jesus cannot be reduced to fit the measure of Judaism. Either one or the other! The wine which Jesus brings tears the old skins. It is necessary to know how to separate things. Jesus is not against what is “old”. What He wants to avoid is that the old impose itself on the new, and thus, He begins to manifest it.
4) Personal questions
• Beginning with the profound experience of God which encouraged Him interiorly, Jesus had liberty concerning the norms and religious practices. Today, do we have this same liberty and the freedom of the mystics?
• A new piece of cloth on an old cloak, new wine in old skins. Does this exist in my life?
5) Concluding prayer
We have recognized for ourselves,
and put our faith in, the love God has for us. (1Jn 4:16)