4 July, Saturday — New Wine, New Wineskins

Jul 4 – Memorial for St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271-1336) was a princess with a pious upbringing, who became Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager. Elizabeth suffered through years of her husband’s abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. She rode onto the battlefield to reconcile her family members twice; once between her husband and son when they clashed in civil war, and between her son and his son-in-law years later, preventing bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

Patron Saint Index

Amos 9:11-15
Mt 9:14-17

“Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine runs out, and the skins are lost. No, they put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved.”            

Several years ago, an acquaintance of mine was lamenting about the renovation and upgrading woes his firm was facing. He oversaw the administrative team and the whole project was causing a headache as it involved not only building works, but also a major facelift of the image of the firm. He made a passing comment, “We are trying to build a mansion, but we have been living in a HDB” (HDB, in the Singaporean context, refers to the public housing scheme in the form of affordable flats built by the state Housing Development Board in designated housing estates). What he meant was that his firm had been stuck with the culture and mentality of operating in a small outfit and now wanted to aspire to the lofty ambition of looking and acting like an international firm, but weren’t ready to make that leap mentally.

Doesn’t this describe us in general? People are afraid of change. Change takes a while to be accepted and executed. Resistance to new ideas is not uncommon. People don’t like the boat to be rocked when they are comfortable in the lull of their lives. I am guilty of that too. But we must understand that some change is also inevitable, especially in a world like ours that is rapidly transforming. During the era of Jesus’ earthly life, the religious world operated on strict adherence to Scripture, law and religious practices and customs governed by people like the Pharisees. Jesus came and expounded a simpler kind of teaching, one based on love for God and neighbour. His teaching was easier to grasp and probably cut through the complexity of the culture at the time. This incensed the Pharisees as they saw it as a contradiction to their practices and, therefore, deemed it wrong.

But Jesus offered an explanation to his disciples: put new wine into new wineskins. If they wanted to accept his teachings, they had to first put aside their archaic ways of thinking and adopt a new mentality, one that was open and receptive. Likewise, if we want to follow Jesus, we must put aside our old ways and adopt a new way of life. No one wants to lose 10kg in weight only to try and fit back into their old ‘fat’ clothes; no, we want to put on new clothes that fit and look better. We want to feel and look good and confident in our skin. Again, this applies to our new lives in Jesus: we are changed for the better and want to feel good and confident in our new skin, but if we live as how we had lived before, then really, aren’t we only putting on our ‘old’ clothes? How would that make us feel?

While we may argue that our spiritual lives are based on the Gospel and that we are practicing morally correct lives, let us challenge ourselves a little deeper: do our current practices, be it in ministries or at home, limit us from being a living personification of God’s Word? Or are we so set in trying to follow the man-made rules imposed upon us that we put them before God? There are good and not-so-good practices of course. Basic practices to show reverence and respect is one thing, but strict adherence to practices that don’t make sense may hinder us from living God’s Word properly.

So, while we try to be new wine in new wineskins, let us also be cognizant of old wineskins trying to masquerade as new wineskins. Let us ask God for the wisdom of discernment to set aside what does not serve Him, while giving us a new, open mind and heart to be living examples of His Love.   

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, we know that change is difficult sometimes, especially when we have been living a set way of life within a set number of rules. Help free our minds and hearts to see beyond our own spiritual myopia, that we may understand the endless possibilities of Your love.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for our spiritual awakening and freedom from our small mindedness. Help us bring an open heart and mind in our call to serve in Your love.

One thought on “4 July, Saturday — New Wine, New Wineskins

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  1. Thank you! You explained this in a new way to me that is significant! This line, ” People don’t like the boat to be rocked when they are comfortable in the lull of their lives. “. And your prayer. Thank you so much!

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