Jesus spoke out against a form of fasting which had become nothing more than an external act, devoid of any real devotion to God.
The background of today's first reading is that King Saul had been commanded by God to wage a holy war against the Amalekites. Nothing of their possessions was to be spared. But King Saul made the mistake of putting his judgment above that of God. With sincere intentions, but in disobedience, Saul did not destroy the best of the sheep and oxen in order to sacrifice them to God.
God's reaction through Samuel, His prophet, was swift and sure. He declared that "obedience is better than sacrifice." Absolute dedication to God's will is preferred to any merely external act of faith or religion.
In today's Gospel of Mark, Jesus spoke out against a form of fasting which had become nothing more than an external act, devoid of any real devotion to God. Jesus insisted that this old form of religion had to go, to be replaced with a worship of God which came from the heart. This is confirmed later in the Gospel when Jesus said the following. "No one pours new wine into old wineskins, the wine will burst. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins."
Obedience often raises in our minds the picture of submission to some authority, some person in charge. It may be that in some circumstances but more often it will mean for most of us responding to the demands of our immediate environment, to the people with whom we are closely linked, to do something that is the will of God.
Points to Pray and Ponder: Before we go looking for sacrifices that we think will please God we're better off responding to the immediate needs of our family, of our friends and those with whom we work with daily.
May we acclaim today loud and clear the word in the Responsorial Psalm. To the upright I will show the saving loving power of God.