Today’s Gospel: Matthew 9:14-15
Nearly 20 years ago, we discovered that one of my nephews was severely allergic to peanuts. We all started reading labels much more carefully and stocking our shelves with soynut butter when we anticipated a visit from him. My mom—who was always making these sorts of sacrifices for her grandchildren—decided that if her grandson couldn’t eat peanut butter, then neither would she. She made a commitment to fast from peanut products for the rest of her life. There was certainly no requirement that she do so, it was simply her way of supporting her grandson as he carried this little cross and a way to share in his life because she loves him.
My mom is a gem of a grandmother. And her practice of fasting in this way is very instructive. It flies in the face of the Pharisees as they question Jesus about why He and His disciples do not fast.
Certainly there are times for fasting: our grand, communal Lenten fasts, our minor daily fasts before receiving the Blessed Sacrament at Mass, and special times of fasting to petition heaven or to atone for our sins and the sins of the world—or to keep a grandson company.
Jesus is not interested in the rubrics of fasting, but much more importantly in revealing who He is. Who He is dictates the posture of His disciples, and all who love Him. And this is why my mom gave up peanuts: because she treasures her grandson and wants to share in his life.
Jesus’s point is that every spiritual practice we undertake must be guided by love, not the law. And Love guides us, not just in fasting, but in feasting too.
Are there ways I find myself hung up on the rules and regulations and forget about what really matters? How well am I loving the Lord and those in my life?
Jesus, never let me forget that how I love is far more important than in doing things perfectly. Let every sacrifice I make be drenched in love and free of self-righteousness.
Copyright 2018 Elizabeth Kelly
Elizabeth Kelly is an award-winning author of six books, including Jesus Approaches: What Contemporary Women Can Learn About Healing, Freedom, and Joy from the Women of the New Testament (Loyola 2017). She is trained as a spiritual director in the Ignatian exercises and leads retreats with a particular focus on helping women to flourish in their faith. Her website is www.emkbooks.com
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