Lectio: Matthew 9,14-17. Saturday, July 7, 2012. Ordinary Time. July 7, 2012
1) Opening prayer
you call your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of your truth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading – Matthew 9,14-17
Then John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’
Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
No one puts a piece of unshrunken cloth onto an old cloak, because the patch pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No; they put new wine in fresh skins and both are preserved.’
• Matthew 9, 14: The question of the disciples of John concerning the practice of fasting. Fasting is quite an ancient use, practiced by almost all religions. Jesus himself practiced it during forty days (Mt 4, 2). But he does not insist with the disciples so that they do the same thing. He leaves them free. Because of this, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting “Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?”
• Matthew 9, 15: The answer of Jesus. Jesus answers with a comparison in the form of a question: “Surely the bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is still with them?” Jesus associates fasting to mourning, and he considers himself the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is with his friends, that is, during the wedding feast, they have no need to fast. When Jesus is with them, with his disciples, it is a feast, the wedding feast. Therefore, they should not fast. But one day the bridegroom will go away. It will be a day of mourning. Then, if they want they can fast. Jesus refers to his death. He knows and feels that if he continues on this way of liberty, the authority will want to kill him.
• Matthew 9, 16-17: New wine in new skins! In these two verses, the Gospel of Matthew gives two separate phrases of Jesus on the patch of new cloth on an old cloak and of the new wine in new skins. These words throw light on the discussions and the conflicts of Jesus with religious authority of the time. A patch of new cloth is not put on an old cloak; because when washing it, the new piece of cloth shrinks and pulls on the old cloak and tears it and the tear becomes bigger. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because when the new wine ferments, it tears the old skins. New wine in new skins! The religion defended by the religious authority was like a piece of old cloth, like an old skin. Both the disciples of John and the Pharisees, tried to renew the religion. In reality, they hardly put some patches and because of this, they ran the risk of compromising and harming both the novelty as well as the old uses. It is not necessary to want to change the novelty which Jesus brings to us for the old uses. Either one or the other! The new wine which Jesus brings to us tears the old skins. It is necessary to know how to separate things. Most probably, Matthew presents these words of Jesus to orientate the communities of the years 80’s. There was a group of Jew-Christians who wanted to reduce the novelty of Jesus to the Judaism of the time before the coming of Jesus. Jesus is not against what is “old”. He does not want that what is old be imposed on that which is new and, that it prevents it from manifesting itself. Vatican II cannot be reread with the mentality before the Council, like some try to do today.
4) Personal questions
• Which are the conflicts around the religious practices which today make many persons suffer and are a reason for heated discussions and polemics? Which is the image of God which is behind all these preconceptions, these norms and these prohibitions?
• How is this phrase of Jesus to be understood: “Nobody puts a piece of new cloth on an old cloak? Which is the message which we can draw from all this for your community today?
5) Concluding Prayer
I am listening. What is God’s message?
Yahweh’s message is peace for his people,
for his faithful, if only they renounce their folly. (Ps 85,8)