To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah 58:1-9; Mt 9: 14-15
The question of fasting is raised by the disciples of John the Baptist. They want to know why they and the Pharisees follow the rule of fasting, but the disciples of Jesus do not. Jesus’ first response is that the guests at a wedding do not fast at the wedding. It would be absurd to do so. Since the coming of the kingdom has often been portrayed as a messianic banquet, Matthew seems to want to insist that Jesus is the messianic bridegroom and with his coming the wedding feast has begun. There will be a time when the bridegroom is taken away and that will be the time to fast. The “taking away” of the bridegroom refers to the death of Jesus.
The book of Ecclesiastes points out wisely that “there is a time for everything”. There is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. But here is the rub: To know which time is for which. Even as we discern about the times for suitable actions, we must keep in mind that rules and regulations can never be ends in themselves. They are only means to an end. All rules are at the service of humans no matter how good or noble they may be. If the rule becomes an end in itself, it loses its relevance and meaning. Also, if following the rule makes one less tolerant of others and leads to pointing out the faults of others, then it may be better to give it up.
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