The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 114: New Wine
Hi friends. I know I said there’d be no new podcasts during Lent but only short reflections here or there, but today’s topic has been brewing in me for several days and it came to kind of a boiling point with some clarity and urgency at today’s mass. So, this one just kind of poured out of me and it’s too long to be a reflection, and since I always try to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, here is a surprise podcast for you this week.
Well, in answering a question from John’s disciples about why Jesus’ disciples did not fast as the Pharisees did, Jesus answered in part with a picture of new wine and old wineskins. He said, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
A wineskin was made from the literal skin of an animal, and a new skin would stretch as the wine fermented and bubbled. An old wineskin was already hardened and tough. and so a bubbling, fermenting wine would break the stiff skin, ruining both the wine and the container. And as a practical matter, this would have been common knowledge to the people in Jesus’ day, but it is possible that they would not have understood the analogy when it came to their spiritual lives and practices. The idea of new faith ‘containers’ might have confused and even missed them altogether, and the same could be true of us and the Church, hundreds of years later.
Because God is always doing something new.
In one of my favorite scripture verses, Isaiah 43:19, God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” God is always at work doing new things – making connections, making a way, opening doors, but we humans don’t always like a new thing. We get used to the way things have always been and new things can kind of scare us, can even feel a bit threatening to the present order, and the idea of change can put us in a defensive posture, but the Christian life as modeled by Jesus is not about history or institutions or order. It is a pilgrim path. The Christian life is in motion – always forward. Though it draws from the past, it is not about preservation or ritual. It’s overturning tables and dying to self; it’s transforming and healing for people and institutions and culture, because Jesus made a new covenant, and He is a new rock upon which He intended something very new to be built, one person at a time.
As our celebrant at mass said today, God is in the business of changing us. He changed Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul, but rather than changing us from bad to good or good to better, God sees and is restoring us to our essential nature – the person that we were created to be and bringing that to the surface for the benefit not only of us but of the Kingdom. I hope you’ve experienced at least a few transformations at the hand of Jesus in your life. I know I have. He is always at work, clarifying, redeeming, healing, and restoring me to the fullness of who He created me to be. And that is a process, let me tell you, friend. That kind of “bubbling up” that happens over time – of learning and growing, of dying to self and letting God live in me more and more is kind of like, well, it’s kind of like fermentation, I guess, isn’t it? Getting to the essence and the very best that you and I can be is a time-consuming art best undergone by a skilled craftsman, Jesus Himself, and the work of producing the new wine that is us belongs in a new wineskin.
So, friend, I’m wondering, what are the containers of your faith life? Where does your faith reside, in practices or buildings or communities that might just not be very well-designed for growth? Where are the rigid, stiff, unyielding places, the spaces which are unable to accommodate the bubbling up of growth and new life that God is growing in you? What are the thought processes or beliefs, even the biases which have never in our lives seen a challenge or the light of day? Jesus Himself said that the processing of new wine in an old wineskin will destroy both the wine and the container because growth and rigidity are, by definition, in conflict with each other, and Jesus wants to make a new way, in you and in me and in the Church and in the whole world. What could that mean in your life today, friend? What could it mean in mine?
There’s a movement in the American Catholic Church to return to what they call ‘traditional’ practices: So, Masses in Latin, women covering their heads in church, receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, among many others, and it’s no surprise that in a time that seems so much in flux that some would long for what felt secure in the past, as just a way of grounding in the chaos. I get it. But security and safety are not Christian ideals. We’re a pilgrim people and God is doing something new. New wineskins. New containers. ‘Backwards’ is not the way that God moves, and an old container is a danger to the new wine that God is producing in this time.
This week’s Gospel reading is about the transfiguration. Peter, James, John, and Jesus had climbed to the top of a mountain, and there they saw Him as He really was, along with Moses and Elijah. This is a picture for you and I too, by the way, as we walk up our own spiritual mountains in order to see God and the Communion of the Saints more clearly present to us as they really are. Anyway, the scripture says,
“And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.”
His disciples did not know quite what to make of it, or what to do, and so often, when confronted by the divine, neither do we. We become so used to the way things have always been, our rituals and habits and practices, that when we see even a hint a new way of being, it can be a little unnerving. We’re only human. Or are we? C.S Lewis said, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
So, as we continue through this Lent, let’s remember that ours is a transformational journey. We’re new wine, bubbling up and growing on the path as we go. We’re on our way to becoming just who it is that God made us to be in love, and what a wonderful adventure He has given to us in that. So, as we examine our containers this Lent, let’s experience the freedom that God calls us to as a pilgrim people on our way home. When we observe a conflict between old and new in our spirits, when we don’t know which way to turn, when we long for the safety of the past and maybe fear the future, when we want to make sense out of the chaos and build structures for the supernatural, literally putting God in a box, as the disciples offered to do on the mountaintop on the day of the transfiguration, let’s remember to follow the leading of Jesus who is always at work surprising us, who is always making something new. Jesus, who is The Way.
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” God the Father reminds us, “listen to Him.”
Well, thanks so much for joining me on this surprise Lenten episode of Raised Catholic. If you need me, you can always find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. There you can catch up with older episodes and literal years’ worth of writing if you’d like to catch up with that. While you’re there, please subscribe so you’ll receive updates, my new monthly newsletter and other encouragement in your inbox. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with a few resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Lord, you are always at work at transformation – of us, our relationships, our vocations, and even of your church. Help us to cooperate with you, unafraid of the growth that you’re calling us to, and helping us to find new wineskins and containers which will grow with us on the journey. For us and for our dear ones, we pray in Jesus’ name and wrapped in the mantle of our Mother, Mary, amen.
Well, thanks again for joining me today, friends. I continue to hold you in prayer this Lent, and I’ll see you next time.
Hi friends, I know I said there’d be no new Lenten episodes, but this one has been bubbling up and just poured out today. I hope it’s a blessing to you, and I continue to hold you in prayer this Lent.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or at my website. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Livestream mass from St. Cecilia Boston – 2nd Sunday in Lent
2. Song: New Wine, by Hillsong Worship
3. Song: Be Not Afraid, by Kitty Cleveland