I find Matthew's Gospel today both baffling and humorous.
First, Saint John the Baptist’s disciples are questioning Jesus, the Man John proclaimed as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He had told his disciples to follow Jesus; however, they are not following Him.
Second, John’s disciples consider themselves equal to the Pharisees regarding fasting practices. This shows that his disciples, like the Pharisees, have become removed from the purpose of fasting: to grow closer to God!
When practiced with authentic intentionality, fasting should purge our body, mind, and soul from earthly comforts in order to draw closer to God. However, we often treat fasting in the same manner as John’s disciples did. We use fasting as a means to draw attention to our personal holiness instead of allowing God to refine us (or to use a winemaking term, ferment us).
I do enjoy a glass of wine and the process of winemaking fascinates me. The fermentation process requires gently crushing (or purging) the grapes to release their sugary juices. Add in yeast to turn the sugar into alcohol, some carbon dioxide, and time, and you have wine! Can I get an alleluia?
Similarly, fasting requires a crushing of our own will, a rising to God’s will (bring on the yeast!), and air (or for the purposes of this analogy, God’s breath). This is how God makes choice wine in us, and if I'm honest, most of us don’t make it past the crushing stage.
Whether we say out loud that we think we are better than others or keep our judgments on the inside, we can quickly become bursting wineskins, destroying the new wine that the Lord wants to pour into us.
Jesus’ disciples have no need to fast, because He is there with them; they are drinking in the new wine of the Incarnation. When He was gone, you can be sure that they did fast; they fasted to be transformed by and drawn closer to Him. I pray we can fast when we need to draw closer to the Lord and feast when we are so close to the Bridegroom that we can breathe in His breath.
This priest discusses drinking and the Faith. Have you heard drinking explained this way?
Tricia Tembreull is a California girl with a boundless passion for life. After two decades of ministering to teens and youth ministers as a trainer, ministry mentor, and speaker in Catholic youth ministry, Tricia now serves as Campus Minister at USC Caruso Catholic Center. She loves adventure and seeks it everywhere she goes. As an avid foodie, she enjoys testing new recipes out on friends and family, gathering them around the table to encounter Christ in one another and be drawn to the satisfying unity we crave in the Eucharist. You can find out more about her here.