Mt 9:14-17 Why?
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The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them…”
The Lord was asked many questions. Thank God! Otherwise, I’m not sure we would know as much as we know. We don’t like people asking us questions because we don’t like having our opinions questioned. And what I have seen in the past is clear: if I can’t defend my opinion, then I will attack the person questioning it.
Questions have always helped me to better understand why I do what I do or believe what I believe. Those who ask me force me to be vigilant in my thoughts, words and actions. I can honestly say that I am a better thinker today because I am a better questioner today. But remember: If a good question can lead to a better opinion, so can a good answer lead to a change of opinion.
The Lord was asked by the disciples of John why he didn’t fast as much as the Pharisees did. Good question. To understand the Lord’s answer requires that we understand the purpose of fasting. We fast so that we can get closer to God. That’s the goal of fasting. Fasting is a means, not an end. Fasting allows us to purge ourselves from sin and purify our minds, hearts, and souls from material comforts so that we can get closer to the Lord. That’s why we fast.
Understanding this, we can better understand the Lord’s answer. “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” Why in the world would the apostles fast if they are physically close to God? If you have been invited to the (heavenly) banquet, then why in the world would you fast? If you are growing, then why stunt your growth?
The Pharisees fasted, prayed and diligently observed the Law. But did they budge an inch closer to the Lord? Did their hearts get any softer? No. It appears as though they were praying and fasting for the wrong things.
I know a few people who “pray” for clarity and understanding regarding abortion, contraception, euthanasia and gay-marriage. What they don’t realize is that they are praying not for clarity but for a change in opinion; that is, God’s opinion. Isn’t the Church’s stance on these issues clear enough? Isn’t the origin of the Church itself clear enough?
A few days ago someone asked me why the Catholic Church is so “structured”. They commented, “Some say it is a sign of weakness; a way to suppress free thought?” Good question. I gave them my answer. “Structure comes from hard lessons learned. The Church is like a building constructed on solid ground. There is a lot of order, structure and thought that goes into building a building. The reasons for it are the fires of the past and the errors of eras gone by. There is much structure in fire codes these days because of the fires of ages past. The Church has been through Hell and back. Do we have to repeat wars once fought or fires once put out? If we do not appreciate structure, it’s because we do not know the past.
I always wondered by confessionals were done in boxes that were sealed; that is, where the priest did not have access to the penitent. Until the 60’s, this was commonplace. Now, it has been made very clear to all. This is but one example of an error repeated from a lesson lost.
The Lord loves to bring people and teachings together; brides and bridegrooms; faith and reason; kindness and truth; justice and peace; honest questions and honest answers; fasting and God; Christ and The Church.