Friday September 3, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 4:1-5) Gospel (St. Luke 5:33-39)
We hear Our Lord’s words in the gospel today speaking about how new wine must be put into new wine skins. He is talking, of course in the context, about the fact that He has come to start something entirely new. It is not just going to be a continuation of Judaism, but rather the fulfillment of Judaism. The old, as it says, is good, and when someone is accustomed to that they are not going to want to change. You have to understand, from the point of view of a Jewish person, what Jesus was doing was exceedingly radical. If we put it into our own context, He continues to do something new. He continues to call us to greater holiness. When we stop to think about how difficult that is for us, and how for two thousand years the Church has been presenting this truth to us, and still we have trouble with it, imagine what the Jewish people of two thousand years ago would have thought when they heard the Lord speaking the words that He was speaking. Certainly, we can see that it is the fulfillment of Judaism. Everything that was promised and everything that was hoped for by the Chosen People is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Yet, knowing that that is the case then we now have to ask ourselves, “What does this mean for me?”
You have been incorporated into Jesus Christ through Baptism. You are no longer according to the old way, but you are made new in Christ. He is the one who says to us, in the Book of Revelation, Behold, I make all things new. Now, the problem for us is that He wants to do something new in us always. When the Church speaks of her own self she says that the Church is always in need of reform, always in need of reform! [It is] not the teachings of the Church [that need reform]. Just as it was in ancient Judaism, the teachings [of the Church] are the teachings of God. It is the revealed truth of the Lord Himself. There is nothing wrong in the teaching, but in the people who make up the Church. There is always need for reform.
Since we do not like change in our lives, and since most of us like things the way that they are, do we not fall right into the same problem? The Lord says, Do you see that I am trying to do something new? And we say, “I like the old. I do not want to change. I do not want to give up my sin. I do not want to give up my materialism. I do not want to give up my ease and comfort. I do not want to change to do what You want me to do.” That is our problem. The Lord wants to do something new and that means that we have to be renewed. You cannot put new wine into old wine skins. The first miracle of Our Lord, in His public life, was to change water into wine, to do something entirely new. Your soul is the wine skin that is to hold the Lord. He is the new wine and you are to be the new wine skin. If the wine is going to be poured into a skin that is already stretched out and fermented – if it is clinging to the old – the wine is going to burst the skin. If we want Jesus Christ, and the fullness of His life and grace to be within us, that wine skin has to be made new. The soul has to be reformed and, indeed, transformed into Jesus Himself. He is not just putting a patch upon something that is old. He wants something entirely new. The question, then, that we have to ask ourselves is: Are we willing to come out of our comfort zone in order to be made new in Christ? Are we willing to open our hearts to allow Him to change us? Are we willing to be vulnerable with the Lord so that we can be transformed into the Lord? That is what is going on here.
You have to understand that in Baptism you have been raised from a merely natural level to a supernatural level of acting and being. You share in the Divine Nature. He has already made you new. There is something entirely different. Yet, if we are going to live on the natural level we are rejecting what is supernatural. If we are choosing sin Jesus cannot live within us. You see, these choices, then, have grave consequences. If we are stuck in our ways, and if we are attached to our things or even to our way of doing things, then we will not allow ourselves to be made new, to be reformed. Therefore, we will not allow the grace of God to enter in, fully, to our hearts and souls because we afraid that they will explode because they cannot handle it. If we turn ourselves over to the Lord and we allow Him to remake us according to His own image; and if we allow Him to renew us and make us perfect, then He will say to us, in the depths of our hearts, Behold, I make all things new! Including your heart and soul! These are hard things for us to accept. They have been hard [to accept] for two thousand years. Yet, this is the way to holiness. Jesus Christ wants you to be a saint. He wants you to go to heaven. He wants you to live in this world for Him. Now, the simple question is: Are we willing to do that? Do we even want to do it? Do we want to be made new or do we want to hang on to what is old? It is just that simple.
We need to look at Jesus and know that the new wine cannot go into the old wine skin and we have to make a choice. He will not force it on us. We have to choose to allow ourselves to be renewed. Then that New Wine, who is the Lord Himself, will be poured into new wine skins and, indeed, the new will surpass the old in a grand way, just as Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans, that the new covenant surpasses that of the old. The old was good, but the new is far better. Yet, we do not see it until we allow it to happen. The Lord asks us to trust. He asks us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to allow Him to do what He needs to do within our souls. He does not show us the finished product until it is there. He just simply tells us that what He is going to do is wonderful, and then asks us to trust Him. And, if we trust Him we will be made new in Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.