And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” And he also told them a parable. “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5:33-39)
In today’s scripture, Jesus used an image familiar to his audience – new and old wine skins. In Jesus’ times, wine was stored in wine skins, not bottles. New wine poured into skins was still fermenting. The gases exerted gave pressure. New wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins easily burst because they became hard as they aged. What did Jesus mean by this comparison?
Jesus uses this commonly recognized truth to make a statement today about the gospel. He says that his message and God’s daily gifts to us are like new wine. They therefore need to be placed into new wineskins, in skins that are able to expand, skins that are flexible. An old wineskin which is brittle and ready to break is not be able to receive the good news of the Kingdom.
Each day, God gives us some wine to carry. Sometimes it is old, mature wine. Old wine is compatible with our usual habits, our old friends, our common expectations. Those days on which we are asked to carry old wine are comfortable, easy days, days that we enjoy.
But not infrequently we are asked to carry new wine, wine that presents unexpected occurrences, new demands, surprising ideas. There is plenty of new wine in our world and in our lives. We have been challenged facing the new realities that came into place after September 11th. We have been challenged as our country seeks to find a common dialogue. We have been challenged because our citizenry is so divided. Truth is that we have been challenged to deal with a world that is in rapid change. There are personal examples: changes that happen in our family, poor decisions that our children make, new realities in our work, in our marriage.
All these things are examples of new wine which we are asked to carry. New wine places new demands upon us. How do we carry them? Only by being new wineskins. Only by being people who are both flexible and hopeful. We need to be flexible people, open to new ideas, open to new ways of understanding the world. We need to be hopeful, believing that the wine that God gives us, even if it is still fermenting and difficult to carry, is nevertheless a gift. If we continue to be flexible and hopeful, we will eventually recognize the good things that God is offering us.
Are we to reject the old in place of the new? Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 13:52).
The Lord Jesus gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new action of his Holy Spirit in our lives. He wants our minds and hearts to be like the new wine skins – open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit. When we do that, there is a spring to our step, a smile on our face and a welcoming love in our presence.
How do we do that? We do that turning ourselves over to Him. By opening ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit within each of us. It’s surrendering our ego to the one who gave us our ego. It’s as simple as uttering and following the words of “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
When we have entrusted ourselves to Him, and live that, we become like a new wineskin filled with the nectar of new life in Him.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, 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.”
The only way to accept the good news of the Kingdom and the daily gifts that God gives us is to be a new wineskin. We must be people who are flexible and hopeful. Let us today choose to be people who are open to life. Let us be wineskins that are capable of carrying the good news, the new wine of Christ’s kingdom.