Commentary on the Gospel of

John Shea, S.J.-Creighton University's Biology Department
Today’s Gospel remind me of the importance of stretching. Old patches on new clothes will not stretch to fit. Likewise, old wineskin will not stretch to accommodate the new wine. Sometimes, we get stuck in “old” ways of doing things. The scribes and Pharisees criticize Jesus and his disciples for eating and drinking, which does not fit in their tradition of pious fasting. Fasting in Scripture certainly carries importance. The Torah requires fasting on Yom Kippur. Fasting is also associated with mourning and as a way to call upon God’s help when faced with danger such as casting out demons. The prophets emphasized fasting from oppression and injustice. 
So, when do we fast and when do we feast? Jesus answers by teaching the importance of flexibility. If he was speaking today, he might relate the importance of stretching before exercising. This stretching loosens our muscles and prepares us for an intense workout. During the workout, our muscle fibers break. And when they heal, they grow stronger. In a similar way, we know we have to stretch and get out of our comfort zone if we are to grow.

Sometimes fasting is appropriate. Sometimes feasting is appropriate. We need to discern when to be flexible and when we need to stay the course. When we feel close to God, when we feel peace, joy and consolation, then we recognize the right thing to do and we want to do it. When we feel distant from God, when we feel desolation, then we may need to fast and pray. During these moments of confusion, we turn to God. We ask God to break open our hearts, stretching and expanding our hearts so we can better love God and others.

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