I finally got around to fasting for Lent a week late. I’m giving up all my podcasts and blogs save one. This is my primary source of information and news so it’s a big deal. Hopefully this will free up more time for reading, blogging and spending quality time with my family. So, in this season of fasting there is also feasting. We abstain from one thing in order to open up other worlds we have been ignoring. The last post I had rambled on without addressing this passage from Matthew 9:14-15,
14 Then the disciples of John came to him saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 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.”
It is clear from other texts that Jesus accused the Pharisees of gaudy religious practices that were hollow. Their fasting was perhaps a way of showing how much more religious they were than others. It set them apart as people who were really serious about their faith, and therefore put down those who did not practice their faith in a similar manner. Hmmm… I’ve met some of these people in my life. They have missed the point of fasting entirely.
Jesus puts this back in its proper context. What is fasting for? Because fasting is related to feasting, it doesn’t make sense for Jesus’ disciples to fast while Jesus is with them. They will mourn and fast when he is crucified, but what a waste to fast at a wedding party. How would the wedding party feel if you abstained from eating or drinking at their wedding? This puts you at the center. Your conviction or religious practice is put ahead of right relationships with people. Refusing to feast at a wedding is an insult to the celebration taking place.
Feasting celebrates the abundance of life and the goodness of creation. Fasting acknowledges the brokenness of the world and the distance between the present world and the coming kingdom. The two always go together, but confusing their proper roles and places misunderstands their nature and purpose.
Jesus is present to us now through the Spirit, therefore the Eucharist is a feast, a celebration of the abundance of God’s love and mercy. Yet, in this season of Lent we recognize the brokenness of ourselves and the world we live in. Fasting reminds us of the brokenness other’s experience daily that we so easily ignore.
Amen, Come Lord Jesus.