Friday in the Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: 1 Cor 4:1-5; Lk 5:33-39 ]
There is a time for fasting and a time for feasting. I've done both and I like feasting better! But Jesus said, “When the bridegroom is taken away, then they will fast.” And St. Benedict writes that at all times our lives should have the character of a Lenten observance. What does he mean? Erma Brombeck was sitting in church one Sunday when a child turned around and began to smile at her. Her mother noticed and whispered to her daughter, “Stop that grinning, you're in church.” After giving her child a swat she said, “That's better.” Now that Jesus has left us by his Ascension are we to put on gloomy faces as we throw out the beer and pizza? Is it time to fast and do penance for our sins? In a way, yes.
But Jesus also said, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” Jesus ascended into heaven yet he is still with us in the Eucharist. He is even closer to us now everywhere on earth in the sacramental life of the Church than he was with his apostles in the towns and villages of Palestine. Since we have Jesus so close to us it is time to rejoice, to have a party! After the Resurrection we live in a continual Easter celebration. Bring back the cake and ice cream! This is a time to feast and rejoice over our salvation, isn't it? In a way, yes.
How can we resolve this apparent contradiction of fasting and feasting, of penance and dancing, of cries for mercy and shouts of alleluia, of penitential asceticism and lives of jubilant grace?
In St. Paul's letter to the Romans, he writes that we have been saved (Rom 8:24), but in another place he writes that we will be saved (Rom 5:9-10). We are already saved because we have been baptized, we have passed from sin to grace. But we still need to be saved because we have not yet passed from grace to glory (Rom 5:21). Jesus is within us, we are members of his Body, we have been divinized, we are citizens of his heavenly kingdom. May everything we think and say and do be an expression of gratitude, a continuous feast, a celebration of salvation, a shout of joy.
But we have not yet passed from grace to glory. Grace is still struggling with temptations in our hearts. We fall many times a day, and weep because of our sins, our unwillingness to show justice and love to everyone without exception. Yet, we must not despair, but neither can we be presumptuous of perseverance. May everything we think and say and do be an expression of compunction, a continuous fast, a longing for the life of glory, a cry for help.
So, we smile and rejoice, because we are the children of God. We also weep and ask for mercy, because we are sinners who fall every day. With the penitent King David we say, “Have mercy on me Lord in your kindness, for my offenses, truly I know them” (Ps 51). And with the jubilant King David we repeat, “I rejoiced when I heard them say, 'Let us go to the House of the Lord' “ (Ps 122).
Fasting and feasting are not contradictory, but complimentary, like needing two legs and two feet to be able to walk. We need both fasting and feasting to run in the way of life.
Today our Eucharist is being offered for vocations, especially for our community. St. Benedict writes, “What can be sweeter to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold, in his loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.” “As we advance … our hearts expand and we will run in the way of God's commandments with the unspeakable sweetness of love.”