Genesis 27: 1-5, 15-29
Matthew 9: 14-17
Which comes first, fasting or feasting? Which is better, an old wineskin or a new one? These are issues that Jesus addresses in the gospel reading today. The question about fasting comes from the disciples of John the Baptist; the question about how to store new wine comes from Jesus.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." If you want different outcomes, you have to do things in a different manner or think in a different way. A few years ago the Passionists established Governing Boards for our retreat centers. We asked the laity to take on leadership roles at these sites to secure this important ministry for the future. This decision created a new world where assumptions and expectations, ways of making decisions and collaborating needed to change. New ways of doing things do not fit well into old boxes. Everyone has to think "outside the box." A new wineskin is needed to let the new ideas and methods ferment.
The Catholic Church is intensely promoting New Evangelization. The content and center of evangelization, Jesus Christ, remains the focus. The way of doing evangelization is changing. Evangelization is no longer the responsibility of clergy or religious traveling to missionary countries but the responsibility of all Catholics; it is no longer the pagans overseas that are our concern, but the people in our neighborhood or parish community; it is no longer having people memorize a catechism but helping them cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The bishops in the United States are creating programs to help us think "outside the box." A new wineskin is needed to let the New Evangelization transform our ideas about being Church.
Insanity is taking old, traditional ideas about the Messiah and trying to understand Jesus. In the gospel this morning, Jesus is making a tremendous claim for himself. Jesus announces that the Messiah has come and is in their midst. He himself is the Messiah, the Bridegroom. This is so great, so stunning and so unexpected that there is no need for fasting while the Bridegroom is humanly present. The old wineskins that contained the Jewish understanding of the Messiah can no longer be used. A new wineskin is needed to contain the fresh and unbelievable presence of God in Jesus. This new presence needs to ferment in our minds and hearts to give us new ways of understanding Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
There is a time for feasting and a time for fasting. There is a time to use the old wineskin and a time to use a new wineskin. Something old represents continuity; something new offers hope for the future. The Spirit moves us forward. We are to be like the owner of a house who brings out of the storeroom something old and something new (Mt 13:52).
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.