Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
At the heart of both of today’s readings is the question of obedience to God. At first, it does not seem clear why Saul is reprimanded or why Jesus and his disciples aren’t simply being difficult. Doesn’t Saul do something good by offering sacrifice? Isn’t fasting an appropriate way to pray?
Upon further reflection, I realize that there is something else going on here. Both Samuel and Jesus are pushing their listeners —and us —to see that obedience means, first and foremost, having an open and attentive heart to our living God. Our rituals are good, but if they divert our attention from the living Christ who is in our midst, then they become stale and unhelpful.
Today, I realize that God is waiting to pour new, fresh wine. I am being called to a deeper freedom. Am I willing to let go of any old wineskins for new ones?
—Dan Finucane teaches theology and coordinates Campus Ministry activities at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis MO.
Life-giving God, flood my heart with the new wine of your love and grace. Help me to walk always in your light — sharing faith, hope, and love with all those I meet today. Amen!
— The Jesuit prayer team