We live suspended between old and new, past and future. Today’s readings point this out in a vivid way at a time in my life when I am shifting my focus forward.
In Hebrews (5:1–10) comes the high priest and his act of propitiation, a word I looked up when reading The Scarlet Letter about thirty-five years ago. No surprise there. The Scarlet Letter is all about Puritan guilt, the weight of the past, and our essential brokenness as human beings. Guilty for all this, we propitiate our God. We mollify Him, we make it up to Him, we beg His forgiveness. We propitiate.
The Gospel reading (Mark 2:18–22) shifts the focus forward. We are in the presence of the Bridegroom, so we do not fast, a kind of propitiation. We have new cloth, and we don’t sew it onto old cloth. We have new wine and need a new wineskin.
I often get value out of the short reflection offered in Living with Christ, which I use for my daily readings. Today’s reflection is by Patricia Livingston. I found it useful:
What lies ahead is unknown; what is known is riddled with hard challenge and shadowed with threat. I have a habit of trying to pour the new wine of trust into the place where I feel helplessness and angst. I reach for trust, trembling, and wonder why the wineskin splits and the wine spills out. This year I resolve to make a new wineskin of gratitude. I want to store the wine of trust within memories of grace: countless times of simple goodness and moments of peace, forgiveness, unexpected love. . . .
Dear God, I am grateful for your transforming grace. Help me hold the new wine of trust safely in that gratitude.
And so to begin a new week, making a new wineskin of gratitude. It is not easy keeping the new skin clean of the old wine. But with Help, I may be able.