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Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I know you desire to be with me and to draw me closer to you throughout this moment of prayer. Even if I am distracted or dull of heart, I offer every second of this time to you, because I believe “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). And you know that I love you! You know how much I need your grace today and every day. Help me to accept what you want to give me in seeing the good through your grace in my life.
- Living from Within: The scribes and Pharisees took this opportunity to express to Jesus their disapproval of his disciples’ behavior. Their discontent came from noticing, comparing, and looking at others. Of course, they were unhappy, spending their energy noticing the deficiencies of others and being ignorant of their own. Where the Pharisees saw different ways of living and made comparisons, Jesus simply sought integration of life! Jesus looked to everyday realities as examples to reveal his desire for us to be whole and renewed from within. The Pharisees judged external behaviors while the Lord notices and seeks to appreciate God’s presence and action within one’s heart. Where is my heart discontent from comparing the behavior of others to my own? How is the Lord inviting me to be aware of my own heart and how it affects my behavior?
- Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reasons: Jesus was being challenged to justify the actions of his disciples. It was an important teaching moment. Jesus pointed out that, while fasting is a good practice, it needs to be done for the right reasons. We don’t fast for fasting’s sake or for vain purposes. Fasting for spiritual reasons is a means of growing in awareness of our weaknesses and of our need for dependence upon the Lord to overcome them. Sometimes we try to “patch up” our lives with half-efforts when a deeper change is really required. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are means that enable God to communicate to us the changes that he desires in our lives. God can do more in us than we can ask or imagine. What disciplines or practices is he asking (or not asking) of me to sincerely listen to him and let him direct my life?
- Making All Things New: When Christ comes into our lives everything is new and changed. That’s the message Jesus was really trying to get across to the scribes and Pharisees. Our friendship with Christ is not limited to what we can or cannot do in response to his love. He continues to offer us new clothes and new wine with each new day. Newness is a quality of God’s love that he brings to our lives. The ‘daily bread’ we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer is the newness of his presence. He is the one who makes all things new and possible. As Christians, we are constantly being transformed by his grace to learn, to do, and to become more like Him. The decisions we make today give a new shape to our lives. And this encounter which I am now having with God in prayer is a new one.
Conversing with Christ: Thank you Lord for desiring to be with me in this moment of prayer and giving me another opportunity to discover the newness of your presence in my life. Lord, sometimes I get distracted comparing myself to others and justifying my behavior out of pride and vanity. You lovingly invite me to examine the intentions of my own heart. You love me so much that you suffered and died out of love for me, so you would always be present through grace. Grant me true faith and lasting happiness. “For the Lord loves what is right, and forsakes not his faithful ones” (Psalms 37:28).
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will live out this Gospel passage by bringing any complaint, comparison, or judgment of others to you. I will ask you to show me through your grace what this reveals of my own wounded heart and how you are asking me to be compassionate, patient, and loving toward others.
For Further Reflection: Watch the conference from Who You Are: A Retreat Guide on the Sacrament of Baptism to review some practical activities that can help us all develop our true Christian identity to the full. As always, this Retreat Guide is available in audio, video, and textual formats.
Written by Lucy Honner, CRC.