Then the disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?”
Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.
“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you don’t put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”
Some things do not go well together. For example, if you paint a mustache on Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, you get a horrible caricature of beauty. The same principle applies to fashion: you don’t wear jeans with a tuxedo, a tiara with a swimsuit or a tie with a T-shirt. Also in matters of food and drink, you eat a hot dog with a coke, not with a fine French wine like a Chateau-Lafite, just as you eat a delicious Gorgonzola cheese with a long French bread, not with an oreo cookie.
Likewise, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading, a lot of practices, institutions and beliefs belonging to Judaism cannot mix with the revelation he brings. This is made abundantly clear in the famous six antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount. There, six times Jesus quotes the Old Testament and either corrects it, radicalizes it or alters it beyond recognition (cf. Mt 5:21-48).
Incidentally, the same directing principle (no old wine in new wineskins) applies to our efforts at inculturating the gospel into our modern world. Some things of the modern world are quite compatible with the gospel (v.g. concern for a just society, gender equality, rejection of racial discrimination, etc.) while some others are not (abortion, divorce, sexual promiscuity, etc.). Oil and water do not mix.
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