Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

There is something odd about today’s gospel reading. It starts in a familiar enough way, with the Pharisees challenging Jesus, and Jesus answering their complaint by way of a metaphor. He provides the image of a wedding feast, and explains that the disciples do not fast because that would be like wedding guests fasting when the groom is still with them. Then, things get odd. After this, Jesus moves seemingly into a non-sequitur, speaking of how one cannot combine old and new cloth, or old wine and new wineskins. There is not an obvious connection between fasting in Jesus’ presence on the one hand and combining new with old on the other.

Underlying it all is an idea of coherence. If we act as though the Bridegroom isn’t there when He is, and spend our time fasting, we lose focus of Him and lose the benefit of His presence. If we ignore the age of the wineskin and pour new wine into it regardless, we lose the benefit both of the new wine’s flavor and the wineskin’s integrity. We act as though something isn’t the case (the Bridegroom is present, the wineskins are old) even when it is. Our actions are incoherent, and as a result are destructive. Jesus is telling us to pay attention and be coherent. How is God present in the world? How may we grow in goodness and virtue? Asking these questions and acting accordingly, we may avoid some of the pitfalls of the Pharisees.

January 19th, 2015