“Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (Mt 9:17).
Mark, Matthew, and Luke all record the reference of pouring new wine into fresh wineskins. What Matthew adds is, “and both are preserved.” Luke adds: “[And] no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
The Gospel authors are reflecting the tensions of those who would reject Jesus and those who would follow him and his new way. The new wine is to accept the Gospel, the Good News of the kingdom of God in their midst, and to do so means to change one’s mind and heart. “The tension, and often incompatibility, between the old and the new is part of every religious tradition and attends every change within that tradition. Matthew and Luke wrestled with it and adapted it to their community situation. Contemporary Christians have no less a challenge” (The Gospel of Mark, Donahue, SJ, p. 109). Matthew shared with his community that Jesus is the new Temple, the old had been destroyed in 70 AD. Following him in fact meant that both the old and new covenants would be preserved. Jesus did not come to abolish the law and prophets, but raises what went before him to a higher level.
We are invited to wrestle as well. The Church is called to change, to be transformed by the Living God. Many say the Church needs to change this and that, not realizing that we are the Church, the People of God, the Body of Christ. If the Church is to mature and grow each of us is to embrace transformation, being made anew through the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit. This invitation is a call to let go of those habits, lifestyles, behaviors, mindsets, attachments, and addictions that are weighing us down or worse holding us in bondage and slavery to our sin, keeping us separated from God. Much of the material and finite things we hold onto prevents us from receiving the new life God wants to pour into us.
Jesus has come to set us free from our enslavement to sin by inviting us to try some new wine which consists of contemplating upon and living the message of his teachings and actions as recorded in the Gospels. We do not have to be afraid of the change and transformation Jesus is calling us to experience. As St Irenaeus, the second-century bishop of Lyons is attributed to have written: “The Glory of God is man fully alive!” Jesus is inviting us to live our lives and live them to the full!
To become new wineskins then, we are called to identify and let go of those selfish and sinful inclinations that keep us constricted and rigid. When we love as Jesus loves, we are expanded and open to receive the new wine Jesus wants to pour into us. We are called to go beyond the foundation of our identities that we have found safety and comfort in and become free to be people of integrity. Our identity gives us roots but our integrity gives us wings to fly.
Each time we come to God in stillness, he will reveal to us that which distracts us from going deeper. As we are more and more conformed to Jesus, who we are remains intact as the false self begins to be burned away. We expand and become more of our authentic and true self, when we let go of our biases, prejudices, and fears of being truly who God calls us to be.
Photo: With Fr. Bill Burton, ofm, 2013 graduation from St Vincent de Paul Seminary. Fr. Bill was one of the guides there that helped me to shed some of my old skin, so to better receive the new wine of the Gospel!
Donahue, John R. S.J., and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. The Gospel of Mark. Vol. 2 of Sacra Pagina, edited by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2002.
Parallel Scriptural accounts: See Mark 2:22, Matthew 9:16-17 and Luke 5:37-39