Gospel: Mt 9:14-17
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.“
John’s disciples were puzzled by the fact that Jesus and his disciples did not observe the laws of fasting in order to hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God. Little did they realize that the coming of Jesus marked the beginning of a new era in Israel. The longed-for Messiah has finally arrived. Fasting as a sign of hungering and preparing for his coming has become superfluous. It was no longer necessary. Now is the time of rejoicing.
Jesus’ statement about “new wine in new wineskins“ is equally puzzling. While the literal meaning is obvious, the symbolic is not. It seems that by this expression the Lord asks his disciples to forsake their worldly ways and live by the Spirit of Truth. The “old wineskin“ of their sinful past is incompatible with the newness and vitality of their life in Christ. The new life they have received in Christ is what the Lord describes in the gospel as “new wine“-a precious gift freely and generously given. Jesus’ disciples are to leave behind their old way of sin and embrace their new identity as children of the Heavenly Father.