Reading: Mk 2: 18-22
The story is told of a young couple who moved into a new apartment. One morning, the woman looked out of her kitchen window and saw the neighbours’ laundry drying on a line. The clothes looked dirty, really dirty. ‘I don’t think they know how to wash clothes. They look so dirty!’ said she to her husband. ‘Maybe they use a lousy detergent!’ added the husband absent-mindedly, his face still buried in the newspaper.
A few days later, this happened again. She shouted to her husband, “See darling, the dirty-looking laundry again!” Derogatory remarks about the neighbours’ incompetence continued to be exchanged.
Then, one Sunday morning, the woman was in for a surprise. She looked out of her window and saw really clean laundry. ‘Ah!’ she exclaimed. ‘They finally learnt how to do it right. Perhaps someone taught them how to wash clothes!’
‘Actually, darling,’ said her husband, ‘I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.’
The story only confirms what behavioural scientists have maintained all along. We see things not the way they are but the way we are! Our windows-our tinted glasses ¬ significantly impact our view of the world.
One of the great teachings of the master was that he came to bring new life, life in its fullness, in its abundance. The newness Christ spoke about obviously went beyond mere teaching. He had the power to bless and to heal, to cleanse the leper and heal the lame. He had the power to feed a multitude with a few loaves and fish, to walk upon water, to turn water into wine the raise the dead to life, to fill the fishing nets of the wearied apostles and to give sight to the blind!
In the above mentioned Scripture reading, Jesus is telling us that the old garment (the old teaching) was no longer adequate. Nor was it any good putting on a few new patches. A completely new garment was called for. He also said that the old wineskins were no longer any use, for he had new wine to offer. New wine demands new wineskins.
In the three years of His public life, he left instructions that have influenced more people throughout the world than the 130 years of combined teaching attributed to the great philosophers: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The life and teaching of this humble carpenter of Nazareth have indeed enriches every aspect of human life. In his early thirties, He was already called and acclaimed a Master. He spent three intense years in public pursuit of a mission. He and His work have attracted more people than any other single human being who has ever lived. Even after thousands of years, there are people ready to sacrifice everything – wealth, power, prestige, possessions and life itself for Him and the mission he undertook.
We shall look at some examples of how Christ’s teaching was new to the ears of his listeners. Indeed, not only was it new, it was revolutionary, so much so that it shocked the Pharisees, the religious authorities of the day.
· Whom should you love and show concern? Your friends of course, say the Pharisees. Those who are good to you. Those who are deserving of your love./ No, says Jesus. When you give a party don’t invite your friends who will invite you in return. Invite the poor – those from whom you can expect nothing in return. Then you will have your reward in heaven.
· If you are offering a gift to God and suddenly you remember that you have offended someone, what should you do? Go ahead and offer the gift of course, says the Pharisee. God comes first. Worship of him is the most important thing in life./ No, says Jesus. Leave your gift there. Drop everything and go and be reconciled with the person you have offended. Then come back and offer your gift to God and it will be acceptable to him.
· If someone treats you badly, how should you react? Give him back the same kind of medicine, say the Pharisees. Teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. Otherwise he’ll just go on doing it and walk all over you./ No, says Jesus. Do not react. Do not return evil for evil. Pray for those who persecute you and who make life difficult for you.
· Who is the greatest – the person who sits in the chair of honor at top table, or the waiter? The one at the top of the table of course, say the Pharisees./ No, says Jesus. The man who puts the needs of other before his own is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
· Who puts in the most in the collection for the poor – the wealthy person who puts in Rs. 1000/- or Rs. 5? The one who puts in Rs. 1000/-, says the Pharisees./ No, says Jesus, but the one who puts in Rs. 5/-. Surely we should judge a sacrifice, not by the amount, but by the cost.
· What is God like and how does he deal with us? He’s just and gives what we deserve, say the Pharisees. If we keep his laws he will reward us. If we break them he will punish us./ No, says Jesus. God is loving and treats everybody with compassion. There is joy in heaven when even one sinner comes back to him.
· Who is my neighbor? Anyone who is from my tribe, or class, or race, or nation, say the Pharisees./ No says Jesus. My neighbor is any one who needs my help., regardless of class, or creed, or race, or nation.
· Who is the person blessed by God? The one who has an abundance of goods of this earth and who had made a success of his life. Say the Pharisees./ No, says Jesus. The one who’s truly blessed by God is the person who knows that no matter how much he owns he is always poor before God, and who there puts all his trust in God and not in money.
· Who is the fortunate one? The man who enjoys the honor and esteem of his contemporaries, say the Pharisees./ No, says Jesus, but the one who practices honesty, and truth, and justice in all his dealings. If he makes enemies, and if people try to discredit him., let him rejoice. He is in company. That is how all true prophets have been treated.
We could go on, but I think the point has been made. Jesus spoke about new clothes and new wineskins, in a word – new times. He said that those who wanted to belong to these times would have to put aside the old garment and put on a new one; they would have to cast aside the old wineskin and get themselves a new one.
We know very well that he was not really talking about new clothes, but about new attitudes, new standards, and new people; for he commanded the scribes and the Pharisees who went around in fine robes, but whose minds and hearts were full of decay.
Thus we find that the teaching of the Master was refreshingly new. Yet it was profoundly disturbing for those who clung to the old ways and the old values. The teaching of the Master is different. It goes against practically everything we hear from so many other sources today.
However, it is only when we live according to the teaching of the master that the new wine begins to flow into us. The new wine is being offered to us now, let us receive it and be intoxicated by it.
Dr. (Fr.) John Parankimalil
Retreat at Nairobi University, Kenya