The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2: 18-22)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that He came to teach a new Way – one that was radically different than the Pharisees taught. In the religion of that day, loyalty to God was expressed through strict observation of laws and external practices of commitment like fasting.
The Way of Jesus is quite different. It is primarily interior rather than just exterior. It is ultimately rooted in relationships based on love, a love that always seeks the well-being of the other. If we judge what Jesus does by the old ways, we will have difficulties. We need, as Paul says, “to have the mind of Christ”.
His message needs to be received with an open heart and an open mind. Truth is that just as it is then, it is now. All of that requires change. We don’t like change. The result? Too often, we don’t change. We cling to the “old ways.” Nothing wrong with the old ways, except . . . Except that we forget the old ways were in constant change and we fail to recognize that. We look at the “old ways “as if they were immoveable and inviolate. Because by viewing them that way, we don’t have to change. But that is our perspective, not reality.
The disciples recognized something we need to recognize. Any living relationship, father, son, husband, wife, is always changing. It’s for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health. The one thing that we know about our relationship with God is that it’s going to be changing and hopefully deepening.
Change is one of the ways in which God reveals himself to us and, makes manifest the Divine Presence. Like marriage, faith is a relationship and like marriage, the relationship of faith may have its ups and downs, but it’s always, always developing and growing. As events around us change then we must look for how we can deepen and enrich our faith in those events.
To use labels for a moment, would suggest that only a person who is a good “conservative” can really be a good “liberal.” It’s not a matter of one or the other. Only the person who remembers and relishes and reverences the past can be truly open to the possibilities of new things in the future. So, the spiritual life means being truly conservative, truly liberal, and then truly radical. The word “radical” quite simply means “one who seeks the roots, one who goes deep, one who finds the foundation, the rock.” A radical is the one who is seeking the root of the Gospel and in a radically changing world, the one root truth is that we are God’s and God is love. That is the one constant.
If we develop a good balance in our spiritual life, we can not only deal with change, we will find change a major way in which we come to know God and to develop a deeper relationship with God. A living relationship with God in Christ will always be growing, always be changing, always be deepening. That’s the joy of living a spiritual life.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth. Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and willfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving you.”
Jesus understands that there are times when we can no longer put wine into old wine skins. There are times when new ideas will only be destroyed if we put them back into old categories. What we need is a new container, a new system, a new vision. When we find it, we have found a “breakthrough moment.” The challenge is that “break through moments” are meant to be a frequent part of our lives. We need to experience them on a regular basis because learning is a life-long process and learning is more than just accumulating new data. We need new wine skins by which we can see life in new ways.