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New Wineskins

Gospel Reflection for Monday January 18th, 2021 -- Mark 2:18-22

It’s often difficult to understand scripture. NO, not because it’s necessarily too complicated, but, rather, because we’re so far removed from the cultural and religious references it contains. Really, in our disposable culture — who sews or even repairs clothing these days. Our grand parents, and even some of our parents certainly did sew, but, my guess would be that none of them knew much about wine skins and new wine. New wine is still fermenting, expelling CO2, which would expand old wine skins beyond their capacity.

We also don’t (unless we’ve studied them) have a clue about Jewish ritual purity laws of Jesus’ day. Many Christians think think that in examples like today’s Gospel reading, that our Lord was simply rejecting the laws handed town from Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures. No. That’s not true at all. By New Testament times, the leaders of the Jews had expanded upon the Old Testament quite significantly, compiling a huge compendium of laws (the Mishna), intending to insure ritual purity among the Jewish peoples. Jesus’ teachings quite often were showing how the letter of these man-made laws weren’t as important as the spirit of the law of Moses.

The “fastings” that the Pharisees of that day were practicing, were not part of the Laws of Moses, but ritual piety practices. Jesus says to us that these rituals have their time and place, and His disciples will do them after he is no longer in their midst.

Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Jewish laws or to proclaim that they were necessarily wrong, but to fulfill them. He also pushed back against the hypocrisy and importance man-made religious regulations. So, the question becomes, is your practice of faith formed by an obligation to the letter of the law, or guided by the love of bridegroom — Jesus.

Each of us who claim to be Cristian, MUST reject sin and sinful actions, but it is the grace of Jesus Christ that “saves” us, not our adherence to the letter of the law. In addition to that, our lives, in Christ MUST inculcate a mindset that knows right from wrong, good from evil, and teaching our children that same priority. However, we must somehow present the balance between knowing and doing right things, and the ultimate importance of Loving God, and being called according to His purposes.

Jesus came to offer us some exceptionally Good News, not to be a condemning voice. Without Jesus inculcating our lives, and without a heart of contrition, and continually seeking forgiveness, grace becomes lost. Scripture tells Christians in many different ways that we MUST flee sin, but, if we do stumble there is a sure way to reconciliation with God. This is the Spirit of the New Law in Christ, Jesus — Love God and continue doing the will of the Father, continually seeking His love and forgiveness. NO, the grace of our salvation in Christ is not somehow a “license to sin,

Many modern day preachers and liberal churches, focus so much on the “Grace” of God and the forgiveness available through Jesus’ self-sacrifice, that they neglect the fact that virtually all the New Testament admonitions to flee sin and to live with certain moral standards were written to folks who were already “saved” by the blood of the lamb. Most of Church age scripture was written for the purpose of teaching us how we must live to be pleasing to God — how to be “the Church.”

The New Covenant in Christ is akin to the New Wine Skins mentioned in today’s Gospel. The Holy Spirit of God is the New Wine that should to ferment and and expand our individual hearts and minds with a desire to be Holy, as He is Holy — not with some pharisaic sense of obligation to the Law, but out of genuine love for God and a grace-filled desire to DO the will of the Father.


Gospel -- Mark 2:18-22

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to Jesus, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."

Mark 2:18-22

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