PRAISE THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD
(Saturday, July 06, 2019)
Fasting is quite an ancient usage, practiced by almost all religions. Jesus Himself practiced it for forty days (Mt 4:2). But He does not insist that the disciples do the same thing. He leaves them free. Because of this, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting:“Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not?” Jesus answers with a comparison in the form of a question: “Surely the bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is still with them?”
Jesus associates fasting with mourning, and He considers Himself the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is with His friends, that is, during the wedding feast, they have no need to fast. When Jesus is with them, with His disciples, it is a feast, the wedding feast. Therefore, they should not fast. But one day the bridegroom will go away. It will be a day of mourning. Then, if they want, they can fast. Jesus refers to His death. “People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” New wine in new wineskins! In these two verses, the Gospel of Matthew gives two separate sayings of Jesus on the patch of new cloth on an old cloak and on the new wine in new skins.
These words throw light on the discussions and the conflicts of Jesus with religious authority of the time. A patch of new cloth is not put on an old cloak, because when it is washed, the new piece of cloth shrinks and pulls on the old cloak and tears it and the tear becomes bigger. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because when the new wine ferments, it tears the old skins. New wine in new skins!
The religion defended by the religious authority was like a piece of old cloth, like an old wineskin. Both the disciples of John and the Pharisees tried to renew the religion. In reality, they barely put some patches, and because of this, they ran the risk of compromising and harming both the new and the old uses.
The new wine which Jesus brings to us tears the old skins. It is necessary to know how to separate things. There was a group of Jewish Christians who wanted to replace the newness of Jesus with the Judaism of the time before His coming. Jesus is not against what is “old.” He does not want what is old to be imposed on that which is new. If we refuse to allow our hearts to be filled with new ways to love others, be it those who have slighted us or new ways to reach out to those living on the margins of society, our wineskins will surely grow old and hard.
By accepting the new challenges, we face each day and letting them into our hearts is the best way for us to be assured that our faith will continue to grow. And, as we search for ways to love and to forgive those we once felt we never could, our hearts are no longer the dry old wineskins of Matthew’s reading, but rather the new wineskins that can accept any kind of wine that is ready to be enjoyed by all.
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me grace to do your will always and may I practise my faith in a manner that will be pleasing to you. Amen.