Wellspring of Scripture


Year B: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel: Mark 2: 18-22

Following the healings and preaching of the early days of Jesusí ministry, Mark introduces the first of many confrontations between Jesus and the authorities.


The issue is fasting. Fasting was part of the religious practice of the day and was seen as an essential part of living an upright life. Jesus has shown Himself to be a good man and yet He does not follow the convention of fasting on the prescribed days.


Jesusí response is not a long explanation of the whys and wherefores - but the offering of an analogy straight from the Old Testament: the bridegroom is present - who would think of fasting when the bridegroom was there?


God had often revealed Himself as the bridegroom of His beloved Israel - and, although Jesus is not declaring Himself openly yet, He gives a hint that He is God coming among His people.

It also indicates that this time is a unique time - because the bridegroom is present, the old rules are suspended. One day, the bridegroom will be taken away - a hint of the fate that awaits Him - and then, the disciples will again fast.


Jesus also shows that something new is happening in Him. He is not here to patch things up - or to put His message into old containers - as He says to try to do that is a waste of time. You cannot impose the new on the old - quite often it results in both being damaged.


Jesusí ministry was probably exhilarating for those who followed Him - they saw His healings and heard His words - and felt the thrill of something new and exciting happening.


Others were threatened as things they had done for years were suddenly being challenged. Things that had given them credibility seemed to be being flouted by Jesus - and yet He was the one people were listening to.


The challenge remains today - how do we balance the old and tried and tested with the new, invigorating and challenging? The Church in recent years has undergone major changes. Some look back to pre-Vatican II days and see that as a golden age - and regret the passing of things they held dear. Others feel that the pace of change is too slow. Somehow, like Jesus we have to find ways to allow the old wine to mellow - and put new wine in new wineskins.


What does it mean for me?

How can we hold the old and the new in balance?

What difference does the presence of Christ make as we tackle the differences between us?

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