Catholic Men’s Lenten Gospel Pilgrimage – Friday after Ash Wednesday – Matt 9:14-15
Despite living a completely self-giving life, filled with rigorous spiritual disciplines (praying through the night, fasting during the Temptation) and a grueling schedule of teaching and healing, some scrutinize Christ for failing to publicly keep some practices of piety. John the Baptist’s followers see that Christ has been accused for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matt 9:10- 13), also want to question Christ because He does not appear to publicly fast: rather than question Christ, the Baptist’s disciples ask Him why His disciples do not fast.
Prior to his imprisonment for heroically denouncing King Herod’s adulterous marriage to his brother’s wife, the Baptist practiced mortification of the mind and body (including fasting) to prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom (John 3:29); the Baptist specifically identifies Christ as “the Bridegroom” (John 3:29), referring to God’s spousal commitment to His people (Is 54:5-8). Like the Baptist, Christ fasted (for 40 days! – Matt 4:2), underscoring the importance of fasting/mortifying the body.
Christ’s response to the misguided disciples of the Baptist (they have failed to recognize Christ as the Bridegroom) is both a revelation and a rebuke. Confirming that He is God/the Bridegroom, Christ replies that His disciples are to enjoy His presence without fasting until His Passion and are to fast and mourn afterwards. The Baptist’s disciples must now decide if they are to follow Christ the Bridegroom or not.
1) Marvel at Christ’s merciful and gentle response to John the Baptist’s disciples despite their sly question about Christ’s disciple’s failure to fast (their real question is why Christ does not fast); God’s mercy and patient knows no bounds for those who seek and love Him.
2) Modern culture is obsessed with eating and drinking (e.g. fast food, food porn, binge drinking, etc.) and many men are stuck in the deadly sin of gluttony. Christ calls men to heroic virtue to free them from sins so they can draw closer to Him. During Lent, renew your commitment to the manly discipline of Friday Fasts (CCC 538,1434, 2043) to build spiritual “muscle” and as a humble sacrifice to honor Our Almighty King.
3) From the earliest days of the Church, pilgrims have walked the Stations of the Cross (also called, The Way of the Cross, Via Crucis, Via Dolorosa) to draw closer to Christ’s suffering, first in Jerusalem and now in parishes everywhere (often on Fridays). During Lent, commit to gather with others to take the pilgrimage of the Stations of the Cross (CCC 1674, 2669) and pray that Christ help you to grow in awe of His heroic Passion.