Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“He will make justice dawn for you like the light.” Photo by Nam Pham
Reading 1 1 COR 4:1-5
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.
Responsorial Psalm PS 37:3-4, 5-6, 27-28, 39-40
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
Criminals are destroyed
and the posterity of the wicked is cut off.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Wedding with wine flowing in the time of Christ
Gospel LK 5:33-39
The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.”
And he also told them a parable.
“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Commentary on Luke 5:33-39 From Living Space
The call of the first disciples is followed in Luke by the cure of a leper and then of a paralytic. Then there is the call of Levi (called Matthew in Matthew’s gospel) and the discussion with Jesus about his mixing with sinful and unclean people. It is the first of many confrontations between Jesus and the Jewish leaders.
We then come to today’s reading. Some scribes and Pharisees want to know why, when their disciples and those of John the Baptist regularly fast, Jesus’ disciples “eat and drink freely”. We know that John grew up in the desert and lived on an austere diet of locusts and wild honey. He also preached an austere penitential message and lived a highly disciplined life. The Pharisees also led a highly regimented and strict lifestyle. Jesus, however, together with his disciples, is frequently seen eating at the tables of Pharisees and tax collectors and in the houses of friends.
But, while Jesus rejected ostentatious fasting, we know he fasted (once for 40 days) and praised it together with prayer and almsgiving, provided it was done discreetly and not for display.
Jesus gives two answers to the question. First, he says that it is not appropriate for guests to fast when the bridegroom is still around. A Jewish wedding was and is a specially joyous occasion (plenty of wine needed, as we see in Cana) and it could last for a week. It would be unthinkable to fast at such a time. Here Jesus is the bridegroom. There will come a time when he is not physically with his disciples and then they will fast.
The second reason goes deeper and is presented in the form of a parable. One does not use a new piece of cloth to patch an old garment. At the first sign of stress, the new cloth will be stronger and the old cloth will be torn. Nor does one put new wine into old wineskins. The new wine is still fermenting and expanding. The old wineskins, which are made of goatskins, are already stretched and no longer flexible. When the new wine expands, the old wineskins will not be able to stretch any more and will burst. The result is lost wine and ruined wineskins. So new wine has to be poured into new wineskins.
In this Jesus is clearly saying that his whole vision of religion is new and it can only be accepted and adopted by people who are prepared to see things in a new way. His teaching, his vision cannot be grafted on to the old religion. The old religion emphasised externals like observance of legal and ritual regulations and fasting; Jesus emphasises the interior spirit which is the real measure of a person’s value.
This parable may also be read in conjunction with John’s account of the wedding feast at Cana where Jesus produced new and better wine from the water in the ritual washing jars.
Jesus knows the difficulties his adversaries face. “No one, after drinking old wine, wants new. He says, ‘I find the old wine better’.” Those who had grown up with the ‘old wine’ of the Mosaic Law would find it difficult to switch to the ‘new wine’ that Jesus was offering.
In our Church today there are many who still hanker for the ‘old wine’ of pre-Vatican II days. They have not made the inner shift which is necessary. They have not understood that Vatican II was much more than a change of external practices (such as have taken place in the liturgy). They nostalgically long for the Tridentine Mass in Latin and compare it favourably with the “new” liturgy which they find superficial and lacking in reverence. But they do not seem to have grasped the thinking which is behind the liturgical changes. The new patch does not fit their old cloth. “The old wine is better,” they say.
The new wine will not be appreciated until the wineskins are also changed; otherwise we are in the same situation as the Pharisees were with Jesus.
First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
What jumped off the page at me here is just above: “At the first sign of stress.”
What happens to me at the first sign of stress? Do I fall apart? Do I need a drink or drugs?
Or do I trust and believe in God and know, beyond any doubt, that he will help me with whatever I need?
By learning the scripture, the Word of God, we should be growing in faith. We should not run away or go to pieces.
Over and over again in the New Testament, Jesus or someone else says, “Do not be afraid.”
When jesus is walking on the water, he says to the others, “Do not be afraid.”
Why do we “modern people” need so much in the way of drugs, booze, riotous sex, rock and roll and everything else? Because we are stressed. Because we are weak and shallow too many times and too often.
Because we don’t have faith.
Lectio Divina From the Carmelites
• Luke 5, 33: Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. The conflict here is concerning the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient use, practiced by almost all religions. Jesus Himself followed it during forty days (Mt 4, 2). But he does not insist with the disciples that they do the same. He leaves them free. This is why, 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.
• Luke 5, 34-35: When the bridegroom is with them they are not obliged to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the bridegroom, that is, during the wedding feast, they should not fast. Jesus considers himself the bridegroom. During the time when Jesus is with the disciples, it is the wedding feast. One day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then if they wish they can fast. Jesus refers to his death. He knows and he is aware that if he wants to continue along this path of liberty, the authority will want to kill him.
Several times, in the Old Testament, God presents himself as the bridegroom of the people (Is 49, 15; 54, 5.8; 62, 4-5; Os 2, 16-25). In the New Testament, Jesus is considered the bridegroom of his people (Ep 5, 25). The Apocalypses speaks of the celebration of the marriage of the Lamb with his spouse, the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rv 19, 7-8; 21, 2.9).
• Luke 5, 36-39: New Wine in new skins! These words pronounced concerning the new piece of cloth on an old cloak and about new wine in old skins should be understood like a light which gives clarity on diverse conflicts, narrated by Luke, first and after the discussions concerning fasting. They clarify the attitude of Jesus concerning all the conflicts with the religious authority. Today, these would be conflicts such as: marriage between divorced persons, friendship with prostitutes and homosexuals, to receive communion without being married by the Church, not to go to Mass on Sunday, not to fast on Good Friday, etc.
A piece of new cloth is not sewed on an old cloak; because when it is washed the new piece of cloth shrinks and tears the old cloak more. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because the new wine when it is fermented makes the old skins burst. New wine in new skins! The religion diffused by the religious authority was like an old cloak, like an old skin. It is not necessary to want to combine the novelty brought by Jesus with old customs or uses. Either one or the other!
• How can we understand today the phrase of Jesus: “do not put a new piece of cloth on an old cloak? Which is the message which you can draw from this for your life and for the life of the community?
be confident in him, and he will act,
making your uprightness clear as daylight,
and the justice of your cause as the noon. (Ps 37,5-6)
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 COR 4:1-5; LK 5:33-39 ]
It is important to bear in mind the context of today’s first reading. St Paul was addressing the divisive Christians at Corinth who were becoming sectarian, championing one leader over another. He reminded both the Christians and the leaders that they must consider themselves “as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.” Indeed, as leaders, whether religious, at home or in the corporate world, we are called to be Christ’s servants and administrators of His gifts. We are meant to be at His service, especially in the proclamation of the gospel by both words and deeds, incarnating the values of the kingdom wherever we are. Furthermore, we are accountable to the trust that Christ has given to us as St Paul noted, “What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust.”
The implication therefore is that we, as servants of Christ and His Church, have no right to do or say anything other than what the Church of Christ expects of us. Concretely, this means that as administrators and servants, our task is to proclaim what Christ taught and what the Church celebrates. This implies that since whatever we have are for the sake of the gospel, we cannot say or act contrary to the gospel as taught by our Lord. As Christ’s servants and administrators of Christ’s mysteries, we cannot be proclaiming or teaching our own opinions of what is right or wrong but according to what the Lord has instructed us in the Word of God and guided by the Church.
On the other hand, the gospel speaks of openness and receptivity to the newness of the kingdom message. The Pharisees and the scribes who said to Jesus, “John’s disciples are always fasting and saying prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking”, were of course concerned about the orthodoxy of the Jewish Faith. Jesus’ disciples were breaking the tradition of fasting. The religious leaders’ mindset, which was so conditioned to that of Judaism, could not understand how Jesus, who claimed to be a rabbi, could allow His disciples to behave in that manner. Just like the Jewish religious leaders, John the Baptist’s disciples perceived God as one who came to judge and punish the evil men and hence the need for repentance to earn the mercy of God. For the Pharisees, fasting had been turned into a means of earning the merits of God.
Christ, however, broke away from such a tradition in understanding the nature of God. In Christ’s understanding, God’s love is unconditional and unearned. God wants to be intimate with us rather than be a judge who is ready to punish us and make our lives difficult. Indeed, if we find that His love is not present in our lives, then certainly it is the time to fast because we should be awakened to the absence of love and joy in our lives. But until then, it is a time of rejoicing. This is Jesus’ understanding of the value of fasting as a means, not an end in itself.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees and Scribes had difficulty accepting this new teaching, this freshness of Jesus’ message and the surprising dimension of the kingdom message of Jesus. It contradicted the religious tradition which they had inherited. In order to accept His message of the unconditional love of God, Jesus exhorts us to be open and to be adaptable. The failure to adapt will result in the distortion of the message. This is what the parables of the Patched Cloth and the Wine Skin teach us. When we use a new cloak to put it on an old one, the new one, being still adaptable, will shrink when it comes into contact with water. As a result, the new cloak will tear the old cloak, which can no longer be stretched further. Similarly, it is also important for us to put new wine into new skins and not old skins.
Indeed, it is only normal, as Jesus says, that “nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. ‘The old is good’ he says.” We are used to the old ways of understanding doctrines and worship so much so we fear new ventures and new ways of celebrating the liturgy and our beliefs. We are so set in our ways of bringing the faith to young people that we have lost them as they can no longer connect with us. Because we fail to be open to the new and surprising ways God is speaking to us, we might forfeit the Good News. When the Good News becomes fossilized, it loses its freshness and appeal. So the message of Jesus is clear: our mindset must be sufficiently pliable to be ready to accept the novel ways that God wants to work in our lives. This is the challenge He gave to the Pharisees and the Scribes and to all of us who are sticky about orthodoxy.
But does not the teaching of Jesus run against the institutional Church? On one hand, St Paul and the apostles continue to remind us to be faithful to the deposit of faith which we have inherited from them. On the other hand, the gospel invites us to accept the new that come our way. So whilst debunking the orthodoxy of Judaism, we insist our Catholics be faithful to the orthodoxy of the Church’s teachings. This seems like we are adopting a double standard with regard to orthodoxy. How then can we reconcile this tension of creativity and fidelity to the Church’s traditions? What is the principle we should abide by when there seems to be an apparent opposition between fidelity to orthodoxy and the need to be open to the freshness of the kingdom of God?
The key seems to be consistency, integrity, coherency and appropriateness. The same parables in today’s gospel speak of fidelity in precisely in these terms. From another perspective of integrity and consistency, Jesus tells us that old wine must be stored in old wine skins; new wine in new wine skins, if not “the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost.” And so it must also be said of that piece of cloth to be used as patch. It must match with the cloak, otherwise “not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.” The criteria of appropriateness and coherency are best brought out in the analogy of the bridegroom that Jesus gave to the scribes and Pharisees when he told them that festivity and fasting must be consistent with whether the bridegroom was around or not. When we do things that are not appropriate to the situation or the principle of life, we become divisive within and without.
In other words, fidelity to orthodoxy does not mean traditionalism but appropriateness and integrity. As servants and administrators of the mysteries of Christ, we must always consider whether innovations or reinterpretations of the Church teachings and the ways we reach out to Catholics and non-Catholics are faithful to the pristine faith of the Church and the intention of the doctrines and the liturgy. Only when we are faithful to the fundamental principles of faith, can we consider ourselves to be trustworthy, that is, reliable and faithful to the orthodoxy of the Church’s proclamation of the gospel.
This fidelity to the pristine faith of the Church cannot be compromised. We must give our total being, all our talents and will to continue to reveal the mysteries of Christ to all. For as St Paul said, we are to be accountable to God and not simply to please man. It was because of his consciousness of being called to serve Christ and the gospel at all cost and to keep the truth of the gospel that St Paul did not seek the approval of man. So convicted was he of his responsibility to God that he said that it did not make “the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal find me worthy or not.” For him, being true to his conscience and to God was non-negotiable.
Nevertheless, prudence is to be exercised here. St Paul immediately qualified that although whatever he did was always in good conscience, it did not prove that he was acquitted. This is because the Lord alone is his judge. “He will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts.” In other words, we must seek the truth. St Paul urges us to give ourselves some room for error, even if we are so convinced that what we are doing is faithful to the gospel of Christ. We may be deceived by our hidden fears, prejudices and ulterior motives in our decisions.
Consequently, even in our unflinching fidelity to the truth, we must at the same time have a mindset that is ready to discuss, ready to rethink and always to discern how the Spirit is speaking to us and inviting us anew to re-express or experience the Good News of the Kingdom in new and relevant ways. Indeed, we must use whatever talents and opportunities God has given to us for the sake of the kingdom and not for our selfish interests. At the end of the day, we must sincerely ask ourselves whether we have been truly faithful and trustworthy servants of Christ and the gospel. So long as what we do truly promotes a greater love for God and Christ and the full truth of the gospel, then we know that we are walking in the right direction. This truth is concretely manifested in the fruits of our Christian living. If what we teach truly enables our people to bear the fruits of the Spirit, namely, a deeper union with God and a life of charity, we are on surer ground that we are walking in the path of the gospel.
Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore.
Tags: 1 cor 4:1-5, coherency, consistency, do not be afraid, God’s love is unconditional and unearned, grant us peace in our day, He will make justice dawn for you like the light, integrity, It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal., Jesus mixing with sinful and unclean people, Lk 5:33-39, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins, no one pours new wine into old wineskins, Our Verdict is Handed Down in Eternity, Prayer and Meditation, protect us from all anxiety, Psalm 37, September 2 2016, The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers, the one who judges me is the Lord, The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, the Spirit is speaking to us, unflinching fidelity to the truth