The WORD in Other Words by Fr Oliver Quilab SVD (Germany)
Saturday Week 13 OT, Gn 27:1-5, 15-29, Mt 9:14-17
“Oftentimes Christians look morbidly unsaved, unfree!” “Christen sehen oft unerlost aus!” wrote the German thinker and son of a protestant pastor, Nietzsche, who eventually despised Christianity for its supposedly hostile attitude towards being fully alive. In harsh words, he attacked the Christian religion as a “crime against life.” He believed it upholds the wrong values for mankind by preferring weakness to strength, a herd mentality to spontaneity and individual genius, and a false morality to honesty. Apparently Nietzsche was surrounded and repulsed by a household and environment full of sullen-faced, hypocritical Christians.
Nietzsche would have done better to reread his Bible. The gospel tells us that Jesus came to bestow life in its fullness. Christianity is an affirmation of life—it is a religion of joy and liberation. Isn‘t it ironic that Jesus, who came proclaiming the kingdom and inviting repentance, did not include fasting as a sign of repentance as apparently John the Baptist did? Indeed, the way of Jesus was a novelty that defied tradition, a new wine blasting old wineskins. Jesus himself did fast regularly as all pious Jews of that time did. He shows us, however, to put things into a greater perspective.
Fasting can attune us to the heart of God or it can degenerate into a form of morbid piety; it can unite us in sharing the hunger of our brothers and sisters or it can divide us with a ‘holier than thou‘ attitude. Jesus frees us anew from the yoke of having to earn our salvation by showing off what we can do. It is God alone who saves us.
In rich biblical imagery, Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a wedding banquet. God, as it were, is throwing a huge party for his beloved people and giving us a reason to rejoice and celebrate. To fast at a wedding in Jesus‘s time would be tantamount to refusing to participate fully in the wedding festivities. It would be considered a serious insult as it implies disapproval of the marriage. The Pharisees, in that sense, were killjoys.
Do we practice our faith glowing with the joy of God‘s saving grace? Let us reread the Good News of our salvation. Let us fast from our self—made course and feast on God‘s love. Let us prove Nietzsche wrong.