Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

Today’s Gospel: Mark 2:18-22

Here we are on the first Sunday of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer and self-denial, and our reading for this morning tells us that Jesus’ disciples did not fast. Seems a little contradictory doesn’t it? What are we supposed to do with this passage from Mark’s Gospel?

Jesus had no interest in the trappings of religion. He set aside any religious activity that was seemingly disconnected from a genuine desire to draw closer to God and allowed his followers to do the same. Jesus understood that religious practices are supposed to focus us on God and too often they become an end in and of themselves. The Pharisees and other religious rulers of the day often argued about the fine points of proper religious behavior. Jesus concentrated on loving God and loving one’s neighbor. To him, this was the only kind of religious behavior that mattered.

In this morning’s reading, Jesus is pointing out that his friends have no need to fast because God is literally in their midst. Rather than worrying about fasting they need to be listening to Jesus, learning from Jesus and following his example in the world. In the same way, I invite you this Lent to focus only on those spiritual activities that actually draw you closer to God. Perhaps that includes fasting or giving up something for Lent. Perhaps that includes traditional forms of prayer and worship. But maybe, at this point in your life, it means long walks in quiet places, starting a journal and writing every day, reconnecting with an old friend, or carving out more time to read and reflect on the riches of the Bible. The point is, God wants us – not our religious practices. So, find what works for you, and remember that religion is only useful to the extent to which it connects us to God, the ultimate source of life, love and hope.


Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

        John Donne, (1572-1631)