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Picking sides in following Jesus

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 07/02/22

We can feel “safe,” thinking we are on the right side - that is, Jesus’ side.

Today’s readings can be found here.

Matthew 9:14-17

Reflection

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Seeing the scribes and the Pharisees tormenting Jesus often gives us the wrong impression. We can feel “safe,” thinking we are on the right side (that is, Jesus’ side), convinced as we are that the scribes and Pharisees are all foolish and bad. But this means ignoring that many of Jesus’ disciples come precisely from these ranks. Thinking that there are specific types of people disliked and confronted by Jesus is shallow and superficial. Jesus’ message confronts a certain kind of mindset, not a certain kind of people. 

In today’s Gospel, things get complicated because those who criticize Jesus are in fact the disciples of John the Baptist: “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’”

In truth, your personal affiliations matter little: Some arguments are always wrong because they stem from a distorted approach that presumes we can “manage” God through a series of specific religious, ritual actions. With this, we end up disregarding our personal relationship with the Lord, which is the only real criterion of discernment that allows us to determine what to do and what not to do. 

“And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’”

Christianity is not based on religious practices, but on the Bridegroom ⎯on the very person of Jesus Christ. He is the criterion of discernment for everything. The question is whether we are satisfied with religious practices or if we really have a deep desire to shape our life after the person of Jesus Christ. To do this, one must learn to truly pray; that is, to nourish a real relationship with him.

~

Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio’, Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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LiturgyScriptureSpiritual Life
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