Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Year B, Proper 3, Gospel

Mark 2:18-22

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."

Reflection on Mark 2:18-22 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

The focus of fasting is not on physical depravation, certainly not for Jesus and his disciples. Asceticism was instead a prominent lifestyle feature of John the Baptizer and his disciples, also of the Pharisees.

The gospels do not present Jesus as an ascetic figure who made much of fasting. It is not that Jesus forbade it, but that Jesus thought the inner spirituality of anybody who fasted was of more importance than any external observances that would try to get the attention of others (Matthew 6:16-18). To the contrary, Jesus was often seen at parties, banquets, weddings, and he drank wine. Today's "Christian" ascetics are not thereby following Jesus' example.

Accordingly, fasting does not provide a basis for opposing life in the body, or for setting up dichotomy between our spiritual life and our physical life. The practice of fasting presents no challenge to ecological responsibility.

So long as Jesus the Bridegroom is with us, we have the freedom of celebration. We are encouraged, in fact, to live with the joyful affirmations of wedding guests, and that applies to all our life including life within God's abundant creation.

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament Hosea 2:1-23
Psalm 103
no reflection available
New Testament 2 Corinthians 3:4-4:2
Gospel Mark 2: 18-22
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John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2003. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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