Reflecting Sunday on the upcoming liturgical season of Lent, Pope Benedict XVI challenged faithful to approach the period with a new spirit; not one that is heavy and burdened, but one that sees Jesus, and his Life, offered through the cross.
He spoke particularly on Sunday’s Gospel of St. Mark which, he said, "offers a catechumenal itinerary guiding the disciple to recognize in Jesus the Son of God.
"By a happy coincidence," he said, "today's Gospel text touches on the subject of fasting.” He explained that “As Jesus was sitting at table in the house of Levi the publican, the Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist asked Him why His disciples were not fasting like them.”
In the familiar account, “Jesus replied that the wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them; when the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast.”
"With these words,” the Pope pointed out, “Christ reveals His identity as the Messiah, Bridegroom of Israel, Who has come for the wedding with His people. Those who recognize Him and welcome Him with faith celebrate.”
The major theme of Lent comes, he said, in that the Christ “must be rejected and killed by His own people: at that moment, during His passion and His death, will come the time of mourning and fasting."
Benedict stressed that this episode, which anticipates Lent’s significance, "constitutes a great memorial of the Lord's passion, in preparation for the Easter of Resurrection.”
“The period of Lent”, he warned, “must not be approached with an 'old' spirit, as if it were a heavy and troublesome burden, but with the new spirit of one has found in Jesus and in His mystery the meaning of life, and is aware that everything must now refer to Him."
"On our Lenten journey, may our guide and teacher be Most Holy Mary who, when Jesus set out for Jerusalem to suffer His passion, followed Him with total faith. Like a 'new wineskin,' she received the 'new wine' brought by the Son for the messianic wedding."