I imagine the scribes and the Pharisees quizzing Jesus on why His Disciples unlike other disciples (including John’s) don’t observe the fasting – really didn’t get what He was telling them; but then do we? On the very basic plain of fasting or not; some don’t bother or believe we’ve done away with the practice, others stringently uphold the rules of fasting but are highly critical and judgmental of those who are not. Jesus came to renew things, not just change things. He came, comes and is coming for that purpose. We are living in a time, at this very moment, where fasting and abstinence ought to be very important to each one of us as Christians. If it’s not, we’ve lost sight of Jesus and we’ve lost focus on the message of the Good News Jesus gave us.
Recently, we’re witnessing (hopefully) a purgation in the Church. We’re experiencing a number of disturbing news reports almost daily that shock, dishearten, sicken, anger and challenge us. We hear of crimes committed by clergy; the very people who were meant to be shepherds for us. As a priest, these reports disturb me in all these emotional ways and sadden me greatly. Especially as a Vocation Director; someone who spends almost every day speaking to the People of God and to those discerning religious vocations – these kind of reports and those yet to come, are a challenge and concern because I begin to ask myself why would anyone else want to come forward to serve as a priest or religious sister and brother? But people do. Young people do. And while there are and unfortunately always will be people who take advantage of others, even in horrific ways and commit horrible sins against others: Jesus renews His Church and through the Church, the world! And He will continue to do that and He calls forth disciples to do just that!
Recently, we’ve been asked to fast and pray as a Christian community for our Christian community, for the people who have suffered, for the people who are suffering, for the purging and purification of the Church and for healing as well. Even if we feel this request comes from the mouths of people we think have lost credibility, it comes from Jesus Himself. In these dark moments for us as Catholic Christians, we are well aware of some of the places the Bridegroom has not been with us, even if the reason is because we’ve left Him behind. He was not with us in those moments because we chose something other than Him but He still wants to be with us, no matter how far away we’ve been or how we’ve completely messed things up. So we pray and we fast; but not in an old way – in a new way! If we begin here, we can be assured that we are part of the solution, we are bringing light (the Light of Christ) into the darkness! And we can be assured that prayer and fasting are the first actions, but a renewed commitment to the Good News in our actions as disciples will follow. Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a brand new day and we are called upon in a committed and renewed way to follow the Lord today and each day of our lives.