Staying Young in Mind and Heart
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Jesus was asked a perfectly valid question. "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" If you read on you will see that He used a familiar experience to illustrate his response. (Mark 2: 18-22)

After a Jewish wedding the couple did not go away for a honeymoon. They stayed at home and together hosted a party that lasted for a full week. Though this was a period of feasting and fun, it was also a sacred period during which, according to a rabbinic ruling, the guests were relieved of all religious observances that would lessen their joy! Thus they were exempt from fasting. This illustration is meant to suggest that the discovery of Christ and being in his company is also a time for rejoicing. Indeed, Jesus teaches that joy is the primary characteristic of the Christian attitude toward life.

Our liturgy has always been faithful to the equating of our faith experience with a sense of joy. Even in the midst of Lent, the entrance antiphon for the 4th. Sunday of that season, calls upon us to rejoice in our love for the Church. Similarly, in Advent the purple vestments are put aside on the 3rd. Sunday and we are encouraged once again to rejoice in The Lord.

The above encounter ends on a rather heavy note as Jesus reflects on his coming passion and death and on how there will be plenty of opportunity for penance, sadness and mourning.

Jesus then adds two other illustrations that, at first glance, are hard to connect, but upon closer examination we see that they are images of the spirit of optimism and of confidence that comes from being one with Jesus. We are told not to be afraid to make fresh starts rather than defending our position in old ruts and not to be so set in our ways as to lose all elasticity of mind.

The "wine" of original thoughts cannot survive in the "skins" of inflexible minds; nor can we afford to continue using band-aid "patches" on situations that call for radical changes.

Joy, openness, confidence, optimism... all hallmarks of the authentic Christian.

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