“Old habits die hard!” Now, there’s a truism!
As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that conversations, and even disagreements, with long-time friends and family often take a very familiar path. Whatever the topic, I tend to say similar kinds of things as I have before, and the person I’m talking to responds in familiar ways. This pattern is especially true in our long-term disagreements. Perhaps it is just easier to repeat ourselves because then we don’t have to really think much!
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus surely challenges that very human expectation and habit. In His examples of a garment patch or a need for new wineskin, Jesus invites his disciples to be open to new ways of thinking and acting. In his response to those asking about the fact that his disciples don’t fast, Jesus claims that the reason his disciples don’t fast is his very presence with them. He’s the difference!
Jesus constantly invites us, his disciples, into new ways of thinking and acting. He asks us to trust God in every aspect of our lives because God is our loving Father. Jesus wants us to realize how deeply he loves us, so gives his very life for us. He tells us that love and forgiveness, even or maybe especially, for those who have injured us or are our enemies are the only paths to peace, either personal or communal. Jesus teaches us that it is in caring for the poor, homeless, hurting, oppressed or outcast that we build the Kingdom of God. Many of us disciples of Jesus cherish these teachings but few of us are able to live them fully. It seems our ways of thinking and our imaginations are just too small to free us to risk living fully the example and teachings of Jesus.
Let us pray today that we are able to recognize any of our beliefs or attitudes that keep us from embracing fully the life-giving teachings of Jesus.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.