Commentary on the Gospel of
No one pours new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins. Mark
At my gym this time of year, we “regulars” see an upsurge in attendance by people we don’t know -- the “resolution people.” Most of them will disappear by February because they haven’t committed to changing their lifestyles to exercise regularly. To use today’s gospel analogy, they are trying to pour the new “wine” of exercise into an old “wineskin” of a sedentary lifestyle. As Mark’s passage tells us, failure is inevitable.
I thought about this as I meditated on Jesus’ statement about the need to pour “new wine” into “fresh wineskins.” He’s inviting us to a new life (i.e. new wine) but warning us that it will only work if we exchange our old “wineskin” (bad habits/lifestyle problems) for new. And that is challenging. Our question today is how we can conquer our favorite faults.
Bear with me as I go back to the gym. Almost 40 years ago after a summer of regular running, I resolved that I would never start exercising again. It would be pretty easy to continue something in progress but getting started had been rough. Therefore, I would maintain my new habit and I have, partially because my resolution was modest. I wasn’t going to run a marathon. A half an hour of walking counted as exercise and I could easily do this almost daily. This has taught me to exchange old “wineskins” for new by making specific, doable resolutions that I can hold myself accountable for.
In terms of how to live today’s gospel, I’m picturing a glass of wine and a new wineskin small enough to hold its contents. After examining my life, I’ve decided to try to combat my bad habit of complaining about people who annoy me by making one less uncharitable remark a day. I still get to complain – just not as much. I can fill one small wineskin a day with new wine, sort of like skipping chocolate at lunch but eating a handful of M&M’s after dinner
By the end of the year, that will be 365 fewer cutting remarks and hopefully progress in fighting a bad habit – in other words, quite a bit of new wine poured into new wineskins. Jesus knows our limits and. I’m guessing he’s fine with small steps toward creating new wineskins.
Also, if you’re one of the “resolution people” at a gym somewhere, keep up the good work. We DO welcome you. And since exercise shows us that change is possible, it’s a great confidence builder for improving our spiritual lives. Good luck!