Feasting and Fasting – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 5:27-32
Isaiah 58:9b-14

I love that, four days into Lent, four days into this season of fasting, we’re reading about a feast.

For me, nothing captures this passage from Luke quite like the scene by the Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese. He turns Luke’s “great banquet” into a wild party. The enormous canvas of The Feast in the House of Levi bursts at its seams with dozens of figures: the disciples and Levi, as well as entertainers, soldiers, children, slaves—even a cat and a dog.[1] Jesus is a still, calm center in the midst of riotous humanity.

The scene is seductive—outstretched arms and turned bodies invite us in, like a friend who opens a place in a circle for you to join. The scene invites us in, to join the throng of “tax collectors and sinners” whom Jesus comes to call. The key question of this scene isn’t that of the authorities—“why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Lk 5:30)—but the one that Jesus leaves unvoiced—“why don’t you join us?”

Imagine for a moment how those at the banquet might have felt. Tax collectors and sinners were the outcasts and the undesirables, cut off from community. Jesus does not seek to segregate and excise them, as others do, to tell them they are unworthy of his ministry and friendship. He calls them. He claims them.

How might they feel this call, this claim? I imagine that they may have felt something like what Isaiah describes: the removal “of the yoke . . . the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil” (Is 58:9b) And even if Isaiah is speaking to a different context, both he and Luke address the work of reaching out, of reparation, and of integration—work Isaiah describes as “the fast that I choose” (Is 58:6).

We see Jesus, a still and calm center embodying this “fast that I choose”—reaching out to the outcast, repairing the divided, drawing together the fragmented. We see Jesus bringing fast into the feast.

We observe days and seasons of feasts and fasts one after another over the course of the year. But feast and fast are always present, interwoven with each other, the warp and weft of our lives. Interwoven, they depend on each other, giving each other depth and richness, and providing form and meaning to our relationships with each other, ourselves, and God.

As you begin this Lenten journey, this period of prayer and fasting, where do you notice the presence of feasting woven in? What joy do you find in the midst of sorrow? What surprise in the midst of routine? What singing in the midst of silence? What abundance in the midst of poverty?

How is God calling you to bring feast into your fast?


[1] Image available online at https://gallerieaccademia.it/en/feast-house-levi.

Support SSJE

Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.

Click here to Donate


  1. WILLIAM E BROOKS on February 23, 2024 at 14:05

    most excellent thank you for answering jesu’s invitation to follow Him and to do so in a manner that delights as well as educates. thank you good sir.
    dub brooks+

Leave a Comment