Sacrifice - A Reflection on Matthew 9:14-15
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
I find the criteria we use to judge how holy other people are quite fascinating. And quite hilarious too. A few passages before the one we read today, we find the Pharisees asking Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with sinners?” In this one we find the disciples of John asking Jesus: “Why don’t your disciples fast?” Here are two samples of how we view holiness. One view says we shouldn’t eat with sinners. Another says we shouldn’t eat at all. What do you think we should do?
The question wasn’t flippant. It is a serious one and I request you to ask it of yourself this season of Lent because I suspect a lot of us do things simply because others are doing them and don’t want to appear less “holy” by not doing them. Consider abstaining from meat during Lent. Why do you do it? Because you really want to, or because you are worried about the opinions of others?
There are a couple of years when I didn’t abstain from meat during the Lenten season and I saw a visible shock on some faces when people discovered this. Nobody bothered to ask, “Why?” If they had, I may have explained that if I was going to make a sacrifice, God might be more pleased with something else that I gave up, rather than with my giving up meat. And he would be even more pleased if that sacrifice would be a permanent one rather than just for forty days.
And that is what I want us to think about today. What sacrifice can I make that will really be pleasing to God? And, if it truly pleases him, can I make it permanent? And if we back THIS up with prayer and fasting, can you imagine what might happen? Scripture tells of some wonderful things that have happened following long periods of fasting and prayer. Jesus himself offers a great example of this.
We can have an amazing story to share too. The New Year always gives us an opportunity to start things afresh, to try to rectify what’s wrong in our lives. But Lent provides an even better opportunity because the entire Church is fasting and praying as well, and all channels of grace are open and flowing mightily. So let us make God really happy this Lent.
And remember — ssshhh! — don’t speak about it to anybody.