Things are Looking Bad and Good

The Gospel of Jesus Christ always comes as something fresh and new.

We can live as children of God! Our sins against our heavenly Father can be forgiven by Christ, and we can have a fresh start! We can learn to pray and live holy lives. We can hope for everything good, and the Lord will give us the strength to endure everything evil. In the great battle between death and love, love wins.

wineskinThe Good News comes fresh and invigorating in every age, in every time and place. It brings us together and makes us a family.

And with every day that passes, during which we strive by faith and love to follow Christ—with every day that passes in the life of a Christian and in the life of the Christian family, the Church—with every day that passes in which the Gospel lives in us—with every passing day, the fresh new wine in us matures and gains flavor.

We build up discipline. We develop good customs and good manners. We produce beautiful things that help lift our hearts up to God. And we pray, pray, pray more and more.

The maturation process of the wine involves purification. In our first fervor, we retain misconceptions that come from our unconverted minds. Not everything that we think is of God actually is. Not everything which we think is against God actually is. With every passing day, which we live in faith, the Lord helps us to pacify ourselves. We develop an outlook that grows simpler and simpler—because we see things more and more as the Lord Jesus Himself sees them.

His Heart holds the abyss of infinite love. And Christ had a Heart to hold the infinite divine love because our Lady, out of the perfect purity, the perfect faithfulness of her heart, said Yes to the angel.

st petersThe Yes of our Lady, the love of Jesus: these are real, and they can give our lives meaning now, as much as they ever could.

Yesterday the upcoming fall looked to me like one of the most painful falls the United States will ever have had. It still looks that way to me.

But I think I said last spring, during the papal interregnum, that this year looked to me like the second year of Vatican II, a year of indescribable hopefulness, when a new pope got the world’s bishops together again. He kept the Council going, trusting that the Church will always move forward, like our Lady saying Yes to the angel. Because Christ lives, and His Heart will always animate our hearts.

And this year still looks that way to me, too. The rest of 2013 looks awful and wonderful at the same time. Fifty years ago today, the new pope, Paul VI, knelt praying for the Council Fathers coming to Rome, and for the world. Today, the new pope, Francis, kneels praying for all the pilgrims of peace coming to Rome, and for the world.

The Gospel sounds out, as fresh and new as always. The Lord will make it mature in us, exactly as He would have it mature. What He asks of us is faith.

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Another Banner Day

Beautiful pro-life billboard–right here in my humble ‘hood! Thank you Prolife Across America! (On display at 9th and G Streets, N.E.)

…How fired-up are we for the Caps?

…Call me obtuse, but I have always found this parable difficult to understand:

No one pours new wine into old wineskins.

Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.

And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’ (Luke 5:37-39)

The parable seems clear enough:

Christ has inaugurated the New Covenant. The New Covenant requires a complete renovation of religion. The ancient observances of the Old Covenant had to be changed. Those who were accustomed to the old way had a hard time accepting the Christian way of life, even though it is sweeter and better than Judaism.

Fair enough.

BUT:

The fact is that the taste of wine improves with time, up to the point when it reaches its peak. The ancient Palestinians used inside-out animal skins as wine bottles (until the Prohibition of Mohammed deprived them of the joy of the vine).

Skins were used for transporting wine on camel-back. The wine would ferment a second time in the skins, under the hot sun.

So, while it is true that pouring wine into old, dried-out skins would never be wise, neither would it be wise to drink wine that you had just poured into a wineskin. Better to take your journey, then drink it later.

So the “newness” interpretation doesn’t do full justice to the parable.

Today I finally found the perfect explanation. In order fully to grasp the parable, we have to understand it as applying to the Holy Mass:

The wine of Christ’s blood, drawn from the many grapes of the vineyard that He had planted, is extracted in the winepress of the cross. When men receive it with believing hearts, like capacious wineskins, it ferments within them by its own power. (St. Gaudentius of Brescia)