Getting into new skin – Monday, 2nd week in ordinary time – Mk 2:18-22

Getting into new skin – Monday, 2nd week in ordinary time – Mk 2:18-22

Chapter one of Mark’s Gospel had every one go la la about Jesus. From 2:1-3:6 it’s a constant shift of gears with the foot on the hate accelerator. Everyone seems to turn against Jesus. It begins with the scribes, then the scribes of the Pharisees, then the people which may also include John the Baptists’ disciples, then the Pharisees and finally the Pharisees and the Herodians

There are five ‘controversy stories’ in this section (2:1-3:6) and we are at the third one. If you look carefully at how St Mark has structured all five you will notice that the first and the last deal with the healing of a person, the second and fourth have to do with the issue of food and eating and the story in the centre (today’s Gospel) has to do with fasting but most importantly with a concept familiar to the Jews, namely the bridegroom.

The only fast stipulated in the Old Testament was the Day of Atonement. However the Pharisees fasted on several other days which began to be practiced by others in imitation of these ‘pious ones’. Hence there was nothing in the law that required Jesus or his disciples to fast. These were nothing more than man made traditions which did not add value to faith as the hearts of Jesus accusers were far from God.

The Pharisees had searched the scriptures but not their hearts. It is for this reason that when Jesus the law maker and Messiah walked among them they were neither able to recognize him nor understand what the scriptures said about the Messiah to come.

So Jesus makes explicit what was implicitly understood; simply that he is the Messiah. While drawing their attention to a traditional practice of eating and making merry while the bridegroom was in their midst, he reminds them of a greater truth; namely that he is the bridegroom.

For most of us, the connection would be hard to see, not for a Jew. In the Old Testament, Yahweh was depicted as the bridegroom of the people of Israel or as Israel’s husband. The coming of the Messiah was spoken of in terms of ‘the bridegroom’. Jesus now makes it clear that he is ‘the bridegroom’, the metaphor for the Messiah.

The time had now come for the true understanding of faith one which required a new mind and a new heart. Patch work faith would not hold just as a piece of un-shrunken cloth would pull away from an old cloak or new wine would burst old wineskins. Change was now in the air.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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