Old Wineskins

Old Wineskins“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. [And] no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” –Luke 5:37-39

There is a saying I have been using in business for over 40 years, “You can only coast in one direction.”  So often, as I talked with new clients they would say, “if only we could keep the status quo, things would be great.”  The problem with the keeping everything the same is that things are always changing.

People dislike change.  It has been said that the only people that like change are wet babies! And, it’s true.

Nowhere is this resistance to change more prevalent that among some Christians.  They want to keep things just the way they were when they were young.  The same holds true for Catholics who want to return to Latin, turn the altar away from the people, and return to pre-Vatican II practices.

Sorry to say, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle and you can’t un-ring a bell.  The digital world moves too quickly, and business that were once necessary are no longer relevant.

Did you ever think that people would be getting their daily news from Facebook and Twitter instead of the newspaper?  Remember record stores or travel agencies? They have been replaced by digital downloads and on-line reservations.

As Jesus taught, you just can’t put old wine into new wineskins.  Jesus had a new way that was different from the ways of the Pharisees and Scribes.  Jesus is not suggesting that we change the church teachings and neither am I.  But, we must take a hard look at why church attendance is on the decline and why millennials are leaving Christianity in record numbers.  We aren’t going to get them back by putting old wine in new wineskins; we have to find ways to share the apostolic proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ (kerygma) in ways that will reach a new generation.  What got us here won’t get us there!

Pope Francis’ latest writings have pointed us in this direction.  He has a unique understanding of what needs to be done to reach more people with the message of God’s mercy.  But, unfortunately, good Catholics continue to reject the message, choosing as the Pharisees and scribes did, to cling to their old ways.

That is not to say the old ways are wrong or bad!  In verse 39, Paul tells us that old wine tastes good and that those of us who have tasted the old wine has no desire for the new because the old is good. I can still remember the Latin mass responses from years as an altar boy, but most priests, ordained since Vatican II, have never said a mass in Latin.  And, while I am old enough to remember, I have no desire to return to mass in Latin.

Should the Latin mass be available for those that want it, absolutely!  But, don’t mistake it as a tool for evangelization.

So, what can we do to help Pope Francis in his attempt to reach those who have left the faith and invite them to rediscover Jesus and welcome them into our beautiful Catholic faith?  Here are a few thoughts:

  1.  Is my faith in a rut? Ask yourself the question, “Have I become tepid in my faith?  Am I simply settling for routine?”

We just celebrated Lent and Easter.  Did you notice?  Did you use Lent to shed some of your old self and become a new self in Jesus? Or, was Easter Sunday just another mass and just another Sunday?

      2. Are you clinging to routine or resisting change? In business, when someone says “It’s the way we have always done it,” it almost always reflects an attitude of resistance to change.

       3.  Are you putting Jesus into your old wineskins? Catholic spirituality is broad not narrow.  Attend mass in different parts of the country or different countries and you will see a faith that has many expressions, some cultural, some ethnic, but all with the same message of Jesus’ life death and resurrection; of salvation through our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus is asking us to open our hearts anew, to be shining examples of Jesus’ love, to invite family and friends to rediscover the Catholic faith, and share our joy with the world.

Let’s enjoy the vintage wine aged to perfection, but let’s not let our satisfaction with the old prevent us from sampling the new. And, let’s not be critical of those who are evangelizing with the wineskins of new hearts, new lives, and salvation through our savior, Jesus Christ.

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