“There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power. We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within. And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.” - Father Thomas Merton from “Christian Humanism” in Love and Living.
Gospel Text: (MT 9:14-17)
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.
No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth,
for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse.
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.”
Are new “wineskins” critical so that we can continue to accept the love of Christ?
But old is so comfortable. The down at the heels shoes we wear when we walk to the mailbox on Saturday to pick up the mail or the old sweater that we put on when we come home from work to ward off the evening chill are often too dear to part with. Add to that the ingrained idea that we should get by with what we have so why should we even consider buying new.
This is the challenge we face.
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. Should that happen, then most assuredly the day will come when our hearts grow so hard, we are no longer able to accept the call to love those who don’t love back and to forgive those who won’t forgive us.
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 St. Matthew’s reading, but rather the pliable one that can accept the “new wine” and with time, soften it so that it is ready to be enjoyed by all.
Maintaining the suppleness of our souls - their capacity to hear, receive, and act upon the Word of God - requires vigilance and care. But the Lord is always at hand, offering us his grace through the sacraments to repair what is broken, strengthen what is weak, and fortify what is healthy.