2nd Monday in OT – 2019 // Mk 2:18-22
There’s seemingly two very different ideas in the Gospel today; fasting and then something about wineskins. At first glance they come across as irreconcilable; how could they possibly be related? But they are.
Fasting, traditionally, has been a way to renew ourselves inwardly. And it’s this inward renewal that Christ is talking about when he uses the imagery of the new wine in old wineskins. The Gospel, the Good News, is forever Good and forever New. And if we want to imbibe the new wine of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ Himself, we have to inwardly renew ourselves, because we’re the old wineskins. If we want the Gospel to take root, we ourselves, in mind body and soul, have to have that interior renewal; and the Gospel today tells us how to do just that: fasting.
We all know what
fasting is, so then, when do we fast?
We fast prior to receiving the Eucharist, for at least one hour. If we can’t keep the fast, we refrain from receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist. We also fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
But it’s not just fasting that renews us interiorly, it’s penance in general that helps us in this renewal; and the Church has seen fit to designate each Friday of the year as a day of penance. As Catholics we’re obligated to follow this practice.
Now, I’m in no way saying we should fast each Friday of the year (but if you do, that’s great!), rather, the Church tells us that penance is a requirement because Christ has told us that penance is required. As we heard Christ saying in the Gospel today, “the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away, and then they will fast.” For our purposes here in the United States, the traditional penance of abstaining from meat each Friday can be replaced with a charitable act, or praying the rosary, etc.
Since we’re still at the start of the year, now’s a great time to renew our dedication to doing some sort of penance on Friday’s. It may be difficult, but that’s precisely why we’re asked to do it, because through these difficulties God will renew our interior selves so that the new wine of the Gospel can be poured in.