Today’s Gospel: Mark 2:18-22
One Friday afternoon, years ago, I was awaiting my turn at my favorite Italian deli. A deacon from my parish and his wife were waiting as well. We exchanged pleasantries and chatted until their number was called. My number came up soon after. The fellow serving me was fetching a variety of meats and cheeses for what would be an Easter brunch to be remembered. After all the items had been gathered, weighed, and wrapped, I said, “Oh! And let me have a small turkey sandwich.” The deacon’s wife, standing directly behind me, leaned forward and said, “This is Good Friday, you know!”
I just nodded, suppressing what would have been a very uncharitable reply. After all, she had no idea who was going to eat the sandwich or when. What business was it of hers anyway?
The truth? I was going to eat the sandwich as soon as I got home. I was still in the early phase of my reversion to Catholicism and had yet to make it out of the cafeteria. I was still a few years away from holding myself more accountable in my observance of Lent.
I was annoyed with her at the time, but now, years later, I see the incident differently. I now give her the benefit of the doubt. She may have genuinely thought that the fact that it was Good Friday had slipped my mind. Perhaps she felt it was her duty as a Catholic to hold me accountable to the proper observance of Lent.
The Pharisees in today’s reading confront Jesus in a similar way.
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” one of them asked Jesus. In reply Jesus tells them that they have no reason to fast. “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” he says. A shocking statement. He goes on to warn them, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”
It is easy to dismiss the Pharisees as the bad guys in the Gospel. In fact, most of them are sincere in their efforts to ensure that Jewish custom and Mosaic Law are properly observed. Jesus, in comparing them to old wineskins, shows compassion for their dilemma. Their dedication to the old covenant has blinded them to the coming of the new one. I think he is more saddened than angered by their attitudes.
The Pharisees (as well as many other observant Jews) were well versed in scripture and prophecy, yet they failed to recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of those prophecies. Why? They did not understand the scripture’s true meaning. There is prophecy for our time as well. Do we really understand it?
Heavenly Father, let my heart be like that new wineskin, receptive to your word, ready to accept and retain your abundant graces.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Kirk Whitney