In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that traditions are good, but that sometimes we have to begin new traditions as well. The process of fermentation in a wine skin produces pressure, which is why new wine in an old wine skin would burst the skin, just as patching an old wine skin is pointless, because it wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. At the same time, the older a wine is, the better its flavor and the more it is sought after, without denying the enjoyment of newer wines.
Wine is the common denominator: in the Bible wine symbolizes joy, and both old and new traditions should be a stepping stone toward that joy, since they are means to a happy end. Our Lord today doesn’t deny the importance of prayer and fasting, but also reminds us that joy is part of the path to that ultimate joy that we’ll experience in Heaven. Christianity is characterized by joy while not denying moments of penance in expectation of that joy, which is why two of our liturgical seasons–Advent and Lent–are preparations for joyous celebrations–Christmas and Easter.
Let’s not be quick to throw out old traditions, nor shy about starting new ones, provided they help us bring ourselves and others to eternal joy.
Readings: Colossians 1:15–20; Psalm 100:1b–5; Luke 5:33–39. See also 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.