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Our Time with the Bridegroom
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, today I want to spend this time with you and only you, free of distractions. As a member of the Church that you established as your bride, I want to love you as my bridegroom. Thank you for looking after me, teaching me your ways, and being the source of my joy.
- Misjudged: The scribes and Pharisees had obviously been attentive to this new authority figure, Jesus. It was likely that very little of what he said and did escaped them, extending even to the behaviors of Jesus’ followers. These not-so-casual observers had their data, and they arrived at their conclusions. Drawing logical conclusions from a set of data is a good, and one that sets us apart as humans. Sadly, another unique aspect of our nature, our fallen human nature, is to judge others. The scribes and Pharisees went beyond mere logic to implicit accusation. Jesus’ followers were being judged to be less holy than other disciples with whom they were acquainted. St. Paul reminds us in today’s first reading to “not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness” (1 Corinthians 4:5). When others judge us for following Our Lord, let us be unperturbed and say as St. Paul said, “It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal.”
- The Wrong Standards: Perhaps it was rare for these observers to witness Jesus’ followers participating in what they considered to be “prayer.” Little did they realize that conversing with Jesus was, in fact, the very definition of prayer! We can deduce from eyewitness testimonies that the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist had a number of admirable qualities, such as obedience, zeal, and perseverance. However, Jesus calls us to a higher standard; he exhorts us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And the most reliable way to “achieve” this perfection is through prayer and the sacraments. By conversing with Christ regularly, we can joyfully bear the weight of the crosses that must appear on this path to perfection: “The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the beatitudes (CCC 2015).
- From the Beginning: Over and over in Scripture, the relationship between Christ and the Church is compared to the bond between a husband and wife. Today’s Gospel explicitly ties the absence of fasting to the fact that Christ, as bridegroom, is with his followers (soon to be his Church) as the bride. In today’s world, in which the dissolution of marriages is sadly commonplace, the analogy seems to break down. But, as Jesus told the Pharisees when he was asked about Moses sanctioning the practice of divorce, “from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). A return to the creation narrative of Genesis is instructive when we struggle to discern God’s plan for our lives. What was life like before the fall—a period of time which St. John Paul II labels “Original Man”? We were made male and female, and for one to be a gift to the other. We were made to see each other as subjects worthy of respect rather than objects to be used. We were made also to praise and glorify the God who created us this way.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, thank you for inviting me to converse with you today. Thank you also for your teachings on holiness, prayer, and marriage—spanning from the creation account of Genesis to the Gospels and the letters of St. Paul. Grant me the grace, Lord, to recognize your original plan for the human race, and to understand that this is still your plan for me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will review a standard of right human behavior, such as the Ten Commandments or the Eight Beatitudes, and perform an examination of conscience to see where I may need to ask for your help to better conform to this standard,
For Further Reflection: Reflect on this quote from Thomas Merton about contemplative prayer: “For contemplation is… to find the place in you where you are here and now being created by God,” or discover what a number of saints have said about prayer.
Andrew Rawicki and his wife, JoAnna, live in Irving, Texas, near eight of their ten grandchildren. A convert from Judaism, Andrew entered the Church in 1991, and has been a member of the Regnum Christi spiritual family since 2001. He has served as the Regnum Christi Local Director for Dallas since July 2020.