Friday, 5 September 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

What does the parable in today's gospel reading mean? In Jesus' times, wine was stored in wine skins, not bottles. New wine couldn't be stored in old wine skins as since these wines were still fermenting, they gave off gases which exerted pressure on their containers. New wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins burst easily under the pressure as they were no longer elastic. If Jesus' teaching were the new wine, then new 'containers' would have to be fashioned to express these teachings. Either that or the old 'containers' would need to be made more 'elastic' (read flexible) to contain these teachings. Take for instance what the Pharisees said to Jesus about His disciples' observances of fasting. They saw fasting regularly as good and feasting regularly as bad when it came to the Jewish religious life. Jesus however gave a new interpretation: there's a time for fasting and a time for feasting. It is good to fast in order to grow spiritually, but it is equally good to feast with one's friends as a sign of love and fellowship not only with those friends but also with God from whose bounty those food came. In other words, do everything with love.
This doesn't mean that we are to reject the old in place of the new, or that the new laws of Christ replaces the old laws of Moses. Rather we should say that there is a right place for the old as well as the new. The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn't want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives. He wants our minds and hearts to be like the new wine skins — open and ready to receive both the old and the new.

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