Memory of Jesus crucified

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Matthew 9,14-15

Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?' Jesus replied, 'Surely the bridegroom's attendants cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

While we take our first steps on the Lenten path, the Word of God reminds us that the true path is that of the heart, the path of changing our soul. It is not just a matter of taking on some exterior practices. In the passage from the prophet Isaiah (58:1-9), which is the first reading of today’s Mass, there is a violent denunciation of the kind of religious formalism made up of practices and rites but without a heart or mercy. The Lord says: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” The kind of fasting that the Lord wants is fasting from selfishness and converting our hearts to him and to love for the poor. The Gospel of Matthew that we heard tells us about fasting and explains its deeper meaning. John’s disciples, who lived a more austere life than Jesus’ followers, wonder about that joy. The very presence of Jesus in the midst of people created a hopeful and festive atmosphere, in short, a special sense of joy. The disciples were truly happy to be with him and share his life. Following Jesus is not a sad path made up of deprivation and penances. It is exactly the opposite. John’s disciples realized this and were scandalized. But Jesus explained that life with him is like a wedding party when the bridegroom arrives. And indeed the One who freed the weak and the poor from every form of slavery and sadness had come. Still, Jesus warns that the coming of the Kingdom also involves the struggle against evil and, as with every battle, there will be no lack of difficult times. There will be naysayers who will attempt to accuse and defeat the disciples who proclaim the Gospel. But we still need to wear our festive clothes and drink the wine of mercy; this will make us strong even in difficult times.