Daily Reading & Meditation

Monday (January 19): "Fasting or feasting?"

Scripture: Mark 2:18-22

18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 19 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wine skins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins."

Meditation: Which comes first, fasting or feasting? The disciples of John the Baptist were upset with Jesus' disciples because they did not fast. Fasting was one of the three most important religious duties, along with prayer and almsgiving. Jesus gave a simple explanation. There's a time for fasting and a time for feasting (or celebrating). To walk as a disciple with Jesus is to experience a whole new joy of relationship akin to the joy of the wedding party in celebrating with the groom and bride their wedding bliss. But there also comes a time when the Lord's disciples must bear the cross of affliction and purification. For the disciple there is both a time for rejoicing in the Lord's presence and celebrating his goodness and a time for seeking the Lord with humility and fasting and for mourning over sin. Do you take joy in the Lord's presence with you and do you express sorrow and contrition for your sins?

Jesus goes on to warn his disciples about the problem of the "closed mind" that refuses to learn new things. Jesus used an image familiar to his audience - new and old wine skins. In Jesus' times, wine was stored in wine skins, not bottles. New wine poured into skins was still fermenting. The gases exerted gave pressure. New wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins easily burst because they were hard.

What did Jesus mean by this comparison? Are we to reject the old in place of the new? Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 13:52). How impoverished we would be if we only had the Old Testament or the New Testament, rather than both. The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn't want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives. He wants our minds and hearts to be like new wine skins open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit. Are you eager to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God's word and plan for your life?

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth. Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and wilfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving you."

Psalm 50:8-9, 16-17, 21, 23

8 I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9 I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds.
16 But to the wicked God says: "What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
21 These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
22 "Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I rend, and there be none to deliver!
23 He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!" 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The presence of the bridegroom, by Bede the Venerable, 672-735 A.D.

"From the time that the incarnation of our Savior was first promised to the patriarchs, it was always awaited by many upright souls with tears and mourning - until he came. From that time when, after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven, all the hope of the saints hangs upon his return. It was at the time when he was keeping company with humanity that his presence was to be celebrated. Then it would have been unfitting to weep and mourn. For like the bride, she had him with her bodily whom she loved spiritually. Therefore the bridegroom is Christ, the bride is the church, and the friends of the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15, Luke 5:34) and of the marriage are each and every one of his faithful companions. The time of his marriage is that time when, through the mystery of the incarnation, he is joining the holy church to himself (revelation 19:7). Thus it was not by chance, but for the sake of a certain mystical meaning that he came to a marriage ceremony on earth in the customary fleshly way (John 2:1-12), since he descended from heaven to earth in order to wed the church to himself in spiritual love. His nuptial chamber was the womb of his virgin mother. There God was conjoined with human nature. From there he came forth like a bridegroom to join the church to himself." (excerpt from HOMILIES ON THE GOSPELS 1.14.12)


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author Don Schwager 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.  

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