Lent, Day 12: Two things.

Today’s reading: Mark 2:18-22

This text has had me puzzling all day. Your friendly neighborhood Bible editors (at least, in every version I’ve looked at) have put a heading over this whole section, something along the lines of “Jesus Questioned About Fasting”… yet the text itself seems split into two distinct lessons from Jesus’ lips: one, about fasting, and the second, about the difficulty of melding the new with the old. Was Jesus actually making a connection between the two topics? Or is this a case where centuries of gospel storytelling and biblical tradition have joined these comments into a single conversation, and placed them under a single heading? (And if so–is there still something we can learn from the combination?)

I’m still puzzling.

And maybe that’s the point. Maybe somewhere among all our clarity, the social rules (of course you don’t fast at a wedding!), the rules of nature (of course you can’t carelessly stick new cloth onto old!), the Son of God comes and throws into a tailspin all that we thought we understood. Not for the purpose of confounding us, but to force us to think differently, to make us find links we never saw before, in places where we were sure no bond could be.

Like the link between feast and fast: the Lenten fast is suspended on Sundays in celebration of the resurrection–for every Sunday is Resurrection Day–when we recognize the Bridegroom’s risen presence with us, and must certainly join him in feasting!

And like the link between the new ways and the old law: the Messiah comes not to destroy the old tradition but to play his role in it, to transform it for new purposes, new callings.

And perhaps even like the link between our minds and our hearts: we seek to apply reason and to make good choices, though we may shed tears for losses that we understand and that we may even choose.

And like the link between the life we imagined and the life we are in: the person I once was, with all my hopes and dreams and expectations, must be reconciled to the person I’ve become, reclaiming some dreams and letting others go.

It’s all about the two things. Two things that, perhaps, ought not belong together, but that God can fuse into one single act of devotion. One single law of love. One single assurance of insight. One single life of growth.

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