The Old and the New

Matthew 9: 14-17
Gen 27: 1-5, 15-29 / Psa 135

The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
(Matthew 9:15)

All things have their time or season
A time to feast, a time to fast;
If we must fast, the main reason
Must be to put our cravings last.

Then the disciples of John approached Jesus and said, `Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, 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.” (Matthew 9: 14-17)

Reflection

Jesus gives a lesson on contrasts: fasting against feasting; mourning over merrymaking; old cloak, new cloth; new wine into new wineskins, and old wine into old wineskins. The Jews had become so obsessed with their old customs and traditions that they would apply them even on occasions that were not appropriate. Why should they fast at this time when they were celebrating the conversion of Matthew the tax collector? Our Lord was simply saying that everything has its own time and place, but the old must never blend with the new. Matthew was not trying to hold on to his old way of life by inviting his cronies any more than Jesus was eating with sinners because He enjoyed their company. Nor was it the proper time to fast during such a celebration. Fasting during a feast would naturally tear the fabric of any fellowship gathering. And refusing to join the company of other invited guests who are known sinners would only burst the wineskin of opportunity for converting them to the new covenant of love that Jesus was heralding.

The Pharisees’ old cloak of Mosaic traditions would not be patched with the new teachings of our Lord Jesus. The Jewish leaders would rather condemn His ways than accept the reality of His new covenant. “Blasphemy!” they cried when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic. “Unclean!” they gasped when Jesus touched and healed a leper. “Dining with sinners!” they complained when Jesus ate with tax collectors. “Gluttons!” they hissed, when they saw that Jesus and His disciples were feasting at a time when they were fasting. Their wineskins had become too stiff and rigid in their legalistic observance of antiquated laws that they could never hold down the new wine being poured out for them by Jesus.

Ever since Vatican II, the Church has undergone a great transformation, leaving behind old rites and practices that are no longer consonant with the secular world. The laity have now been taking an active role in its mission of evangelization through a new spirit of renewal. Here in our Brotherhood, many of us who invite first timers to our breakfast meetings, or sponsor new members to join our Christian Life Program are following the example of Jesus Who invited Matthew into His company. We are bringing in “new wine” to make our Brotherhood a perpetual “fresh wineskin.” Nobody grows old spiritually in the renewal. We are constantly being renewed by the Holy Spirit, just as we are helping renew the life of our community with new members.

May I hunger more for Your Word than for food and drink; and in my physical hunger, may I experience how dependent I am on You, My God. Amen.

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