Gospel Reflection – Friday, February 16, 2024 – Matthew 9,14-15 – Catholic Bible

First Reading (Is 58:1-9a)

Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.

Thus says the Lord God: “Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. ‘Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?’ Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. With that kind of fasting on your part, your voice shall not be heard on high. Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 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, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!”

– The word of the Lord.

– Thanks be to God.

Gospel (Mt 9:14-15)

— PROCLAMATION of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew.

— Glory to you, Lord!

At that time, the disciples of John approached Jesus and asked, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?”

Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

— The Gospel of the Lord.

— Praise to you, Lord.

Reflecting the Word of God

My brothers and sisters in Christ, may the peace of the Lord be with all of you!

Today, I would like to begin our reflection with a question: how do you feel when you are hungry? I believe that all of us have experienced the sensation of an empty stomach, the pains and grumblings that remind us of the need to nourish ourselves. It’s a feeling that arouses within us an intense desire to seek food and satisfy our hunger.

This daily experience of physical hunger can help us understand the biblical passages we have just heard. In the first reading, from the Book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks to us about true fasting, the way God desires us to seek Him. He says: “The fasting that pleases me is to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house, to clothe the naked when you see them”.

These words show us that true fasting is not just physical abstinence, but an attitude of openness and generosity towards others. God calls us to look beyond our own needs and to care for those who are hungry, for those who need our help. He invites us to be the food for the hungry, to be the shelter for the homeless, to be the clothing for the naked.

But how does this relate to the Gospel we heard today? Jesus speaks to us about the fasting of his disciples and how they are questioned by the Pharisees. Jesus replies: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast”.

These words may seem enigmatic at first glance, but they reveal a profound truth. Jesus is the bridegroom, the one who came to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst. While He is with us, we do not need to fast in sadness, but we can rejoice and feed on His presence. However, there will come a time when He will be taken away from us, when He will ascend to heaven, and then, yes, we will fast in longing and anticipation of His return.

But what does this mean for us in our daily lives? How can we live out these spiritual truths in our everyday reality? Allow me to share some reflections and stories that illustrate these principles and help us understand them better.

In our busy and often selfish lives, we can become so absorbed in our own tasks that we forget about the hungry and needy around us. We can close ourselves off in our own concerns and neglect the opportunity to be the food for those who are physically, emotionally, or spiritually hungry.

I remember a story that was told to me about a man named John. He was an ordinary worker, but he had a generous heart and a compassionate spirit. John made it a point to bring food and clothing to the homeless in his city every week. He set aside time in his busy schedule to listen to their stories and offer words of encouragement. John understood that serving the needy was true fasting, a response to God’s call to care for others.

On one of his visits, John met a man named Peter. Peter had lost everything, he was discouraged and hopeless. But John’s loving presence touched his heart. It wasn’t just the food and clothing that John offered him, but also the compassion and genuine desire to help. John became the food for Peter’s spiritual hunger, restoring his faith in humanity and reigniting his hope.

This story reminds us that true fasting is more than just giving something material. It’s about being present, listening, welcoming, and offering hope. It’s about being the food for the hungry soul of those around us. When we become instruments of love and compassion, we are following the example of Jesus, the true bridegroom who came to satisfy our spiritual hunger.

Another inspiring story that illustrates these principles is that of a woman named Maria. She was a volunteer at a drug rehabilitation center. Maria witnessed the transforming power of God’s love in the lives of those who were struggling with addiction. She realized that by offering support, encouragement, and spiritual guidance, she was being the food for the spiritual hunger of these people.

Maria understood that true fasting was not just about avoiding specific foods, but also abstaining from judgments and stigmas. She recognized that by treating those who were struggling with addiction with dignity and respect, she was showing God’s love and mercy. Her service was a powerful example of how we can be the food for those who hunger for hope and redemption.

My dear brothers and sisters, these stories challenge us to reflect on how we are living out our faith in our daily lives. Are we truly heeding God’s call to be the food for the hungry around us? Are we willing to open our hearts and hands to serve the needy?

True fasting is not just an empty religious practice, but a tangible expression of God’s love in our lives. It is through our concrete actions of compassion and generosity that we can make the spiritual truths of the Scriptures tangible and applicable.

So, I invite you to pause and reflect on how you can be the food for the hungry in your daily life. Perhaps it’s through a donation of food to a local food bank, or maybe it’s by offering your time and talent to help someone in need. Be creative in how you apply these principles in your lives, but always with love and authenticity.

Remember that true fasting is not about seeking recognition or reward, but about serving others with humility and love. It’s about being willing to sacrifice our own comforts and privileges for the sake of others.

My brothers and sisters, may we allow the words of the Scriptures and these reflections to resonate in our hearts. May we be awakened to the true hunger that exists around us and be motivated to be the food for those in need.

May we follow the example of Jesus, the bridegroom who came to satisfy us, and live our lives according to the teachings of the Scriptures. May generosity, compassion, and love be the pillars that guide our daily actions.

And now, in silence, let us seek divine guidance so that we may respond to this call with sincerity and dedication. Let us pray together…

Heavenly Father, we thank you for calling us to be the food for the hungry. Grant us the wisdom and strength to act with love and generosity in our daily lives. Help us to recognize opportunities to serve others and to respond with compassion and humility. May your love and grace guide and strengthen us on our journey of faith. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

May God bless you all and empower you to live as true disciples of Christ. Go in peace, being the food for the hungry, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!