Friday, September 02, 2011

Something old, something new in today's Gospel

The old wedding rhyme came to mind today. You know the one: "Something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue."  Because today's Gospel is about a Bridegroom, as well as something old (and "borrowed") and something new. I didn't come up with something blue, however (maybe the patched cloak?)
According to Luke, every so often Jesus had to face the suspicions of those who didn't think he measured up to the "old" standards. Today, it was the "scribes and Pharisees" who made the veiled accusation that Jesus was not ascetical enough to be a genuine religious teacher. After all, they said, "The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Your disciples, on the other hand, enjoy their food and drink freely." (In a few chapters, we find a similar complaint, but criticizing both John--for fasting--and Jesus--for not.)
Jesus responds with several images, all involving "something new." A newlywed. A new garment. A new wineskin. New wine.
The old, borrowed from the past, was not able to bear all the newness Jesus was bringing. The scribes and Pharisees were right to challenge Jesus about his disciples' behavior. After all, by not following the familiar and hallowed practices of the past, they were clearly acting as if the Messianaic times had arrived. And yet the disciples' critics, so intent on affirming the venerable traditions of asceticism, completely missed the even deeper "fasting" the disciples had taken on. These are men who gave up not just a bit of food, but their homes, land and livelihood, their wives and their children, to follow Jesus.
It wasn't that the old standards, received from the past, were not good. They were not good enough to serve as a response to "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus."
Something new was in order that would put Jesus front and center.
And so, when the Bridegroom was taken away, they, too, would borrow the old traditions--but to make them say something new!

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