Jesus answered them,
"Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
In today's first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we learn of Jesus' priesthood. I am astonished by:
No one takes this honor upon himselfbut only when called by God,just as Aaron was.Surely, if anyone could "take this honor upon himself" it was Jesus. At one time, European kings were accustomed to bow down before the Pope while he placed the crown on their heads. The emperor Charlemagne established the custom; it gave his authority a certain elan. It made him look humble before the Priest and pleased devout Christians; it also gave his government the appearance of heavenly endorsement.
For hundreds of years rulers followed his example, until Napoleon, coming before the Pope, snatched the crown and placed it on his own head. By that time, the Church was weak; it's endorsement meant nothing; the ritual was a joke.
Perhaps Charlemagne got the idea from Hebrews 5. If Jesus was so humble, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire should at least make a display of humility.
Today's gospel reveals Jesus' humility more clearly. It's not just a pretense of piety. Jesus knows "the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away."
He is most certainly the "bridegroom" who deserves all honor. As we feast on Christmas after the fasting of Advent, so do we eat heartily in the presence of Christ. During the Mass we do not hesitate to eat and drink, receiving the Body and the Blood of Jesus. The Bridegroom has placed this banquet before us; only rudeness would turn away from it.
But the day will come when the Bridegroom is taken away. On that day we will fast. When he is humiliated by arrest, denunciation, condemnation, torture and death his disciples will mourn, losing all appetite for food or drink. They will feel in their bodies his indignity.
Traditionally, the Church has experienced the liturgical times of the year incarnationally; that is, with feasting and fasting. In some European countries even the sexual acts of husband and wife were deferred during Lent out of reverence for the Lord's Passion.
If those customs are largely forgotten during this decadent moment in our history, the Spirit remains. As we enter 2017, realizing that our world is changing and our Christian values are needed more today than ever before, we will do well to embrace the Spirit again with appropriate practices of feasting and fasting.