“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 on 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 offer of the transformation love of God, 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, we are called to let go of those selfish and sinful inclinations that keep us constricted and rigid. We are also called to move beyond our comfort zones, ones that have truly been good but were not intended to be the end goal. When we love as Jesus loves, we are expanded and opened 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.
I have enjoyed teaching very much and each year has gotten even better, but as I discerned over the past few years how to begin living again without sharing my life with JoAnn, I discerned between eight different options. What rose to the top three after some time was taking some time off to rest and renew, to continue teaching, or to pursue the priesthood. My decision came down to asking God what he wanted me to do, and I heard in the quiet of my heart to pursue the priesthood.
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. The biggest challenge comes when we are called to grow beyond wonderful positions, work places, and/or experiences. Jesus did not come to abolish but to fulfill, to call us higher.
Photo: Pentecost Sunday with our pastor, Fr. Don, during my last full weekend at St. Peter Catholic Church before entering the seminary summer program. Glad to be back over the next few days for a little break!
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