Friday Sept. 5, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Colossians 1:15-20) Gospel (St. Luke 5:33-39)
Our Lord tells us, “No one puts new wine into old wine skins. Not only will the wine and the skins both be lost, but anyone who has been drinking of the old wine never wants the new. ‘The old is good,’ he says.” The point Our Lord is making is that He is starting something that is entirely new. It is coming out of Judaism, but you could not put Christianity into the old wineskin of Judaism because anyone who was living their Jewish faith at that time would have been able to look at what Our Lord was trying to do and say, “I like the old better.” It is the way all of us are. We know what we have and it is what we are accustomed to; and even though a new thing may be much better, we like our old way because we are just plain used to it. And so when Our Lord starts something new, He is telling us that He has to put new wine into new wineskins. You cannot put Christianity into the skin of Judaism; it is not going to fit. It does not say that the old was not good, but it simply says that the new actually is entirely different.
That difference we hear about in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians in the first reading, that in Christ Jesus everything has been reconciled to God. He is the only means of reconciliation with God that we have because, as Saint Peter tells us in the Acts of the Apostles, there is only one Name given to men by which we will be saved, and that is the Name of Jesus Christ. So we must look to Our Lord, as Saint Paul tells us. He is the Head and we are the body. And the body without the Head is useless. So we have to look to Christ; it is our only way to be able to be saved. We know that all too well, but it is a matter of living it because Saint Paul tells us again about the call that God has put upon each one of us to be holy and to grow in union with Christ so that all things will be brought to unity in Him, that is, putting the new wine into the new skin. It is taking each one of us who has been made a member of Jesus Christ and allowing the life of Christ to be lived in us and through us. In other words, we have to recognize ourselves within His Person. We are the wine, He is the skin in this manner.
And so we have to be brought into the very Person of Christ, and we have to be brought into the very holiness of Christ. On the day we were baptized, we were brought into His Person; we were made members of Jesus Christ. But now we have to go beyond just simply being His members in a generic way and we must become the very holiness of Jesus Christ Himself. Once again, this is what Saint Paul tells us we have to do, to be transformed into the very holiness of God Himself; Jesus being God, that means to be transformed into the holiness of Jesus Christ. The goal of our lives is to be so transformed into Jesus Christ that, as Saint Paul says, “It is no longer I who live but Christ Who lives in me,” so that we will be able to live the life of Christ, or even better, to say that the life of Christ will be lived in us and through us, and that we will bring Jesus Christ into the world by the way we live, by the way we speak, by everything that we do. That is what the Christian life is about. That is the new wine. He is the new wineskin. And we recognize indeed that it is better than the old wine.
But what we have to do for ourselves, then, is to look at our old way of living, our sinful and selfish way of living, and reject that. Even though it is what we are accustomed to, even though we like it, tragically, nonetheless we are attached to it and we have to be able to let it go so that the new way of life – which is truly who we are as members of Jesus Christ – will be able to shine through us and we will be able to transform the world into the very holiness of Jesus Christ by beginning to allow ourselves first to be transformed into that holiness of Christ Himself.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.