Then the disciples of John came to Jesus, 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.’
Jesus said to the disciples: The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them.
In today’s reading Jesus uses words and imagery that we can all understand. He speaks of weddings: times of celebration as husband and wife become one and begin a new life in the community. He speaks of mourning: a time to grieve a death or loss; a time to be sorrowful. We all understand that weddings and mourning do not go together. Weddings are definitely not times of grief or sorrow!
To understand the message in today’s reading we need to remember that Jesus is often referred to as the bridegroom who has come into our midst. His incarnation is, therefore, a time of celebration. Perhaps we could compare his walking amongst us to the party that traditionally follows a wedding – definitely a time of celebration. We might also recall the mood of the wedding reception when the bride and groom leave the party. At that moment the sense of celebration diminishes, its mood changes, and yet the reality of the marriage is unchanged.
As the physical presence of Jesus came to an end the feeling of celebration that God had come among us gave way to a time of fear and uncertainty. It was no longer possible to see and touch Jesus, the man, which meant that down the centuries humanity has had to develop ways of reminding ourselves that Christ is constantly present; Christ journeys with us through every highway and byway of life; Christ, the bridegroom, is still in our midst.
The challenge for us in today’s reading lies in the way we respond to the call to keep our faith alive and joyous, even when we feel at our lowest ebb. Too often I hear of those who experience Church as lifeless and lacking in joy. Such places need to take seriously the challenge in today’s reading. All who profess a faith in Jesus Christ need to constantly recall and keep alive the sense of celebration humanity knew when Jesus walked in our midst. There is absolutely nothing to mourn because Jesus lives and Jesus reigns with his, and our, Father in heaven. Alleluia!