Lectio Divina: Matthew 9:14-17
1) Opening prayer
You call Your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of Your truth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 9:14-17
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
• Matthew 9:14: The question of John’s disciples concerning the practice of fasting. Fasting is quite an ancient usage, practiced by almost all religions. Jesus Himself practiced it for forty days (Mt 4:2). But He does not insist that the disciples do the same thing. He leaves them free. Because of this, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting:“Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not?”
• Matthew 9:15: Jesus’ answer. Jesus answers with a comparison in the form of a question: “Surely the bridegroom’s attendants cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is still with them?” Jesus associates fasting with mourning, and He considers Himself the bridegroom. When the bridegroom is with His friends, that is, during the wedding feast, they have no need to fast. When Jesus is with them, with His disciples, it is a feast, the wedding feast. Therefore, they should not fast. But one day the bridegroom will go away. It will be a day of mourning. Then, if they want, they can fast. Jesus refers to His death. He knows and feels that if He continues on this way of liberation, the authorities will want to kill Him.
• Matthew 9:16-17: New wine in new wineskins! In these two verses, the Gospel of Matthew gives two separate sayings of Jesus on the patch of new cloth on an old cloak and on the new wine in new skins. These words throw light on the discussions and the conflicts of Jesus with religious authority of the time. A patch of new cloth is not put on an old cloak, because when it is washed, the new piece of cloth shrinks and pulls on the old cloak and tears it and the tear becomes bigger. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because when the new wine ferments, it tears the old skins. New wine in new skins! The religion defended by the religious authority was like a piece of old cloth, like an old wineskin. Both the disciples of John and the Pharisees tried to renew the religion. In reality, they barely put some patches, and because of this, they ran the risk of compromising and harming both the new and the old uses. The new wine which Jesus brings to us tears the old skins. It is necessary to know how to separate things. Most probably, Matthew presents these words of Jesus to orientate the communities in the years of the 80’s. There was a group of Jewish Christians who wanted to replace the newness of Jesus with the Judaism of the time before His coming. Jesus is not against what is “old.” He does not want what is old to be imposed on that which is new. Similarly, Vatican II cannot be reread with the mentality before the Council, as some try to do today.
4) Personal questions
• What are the conflicts around religious practices which make many people suffer today and are a reason for heated discussions and polemics? What is the image of God which is behind all these preconceptions, these norms, and these prohibitions?
• How is this saying of Jesus to be understood: “Nobody puts a piece of new cloth on an old cloak? What is the message which we can draw from all of this for your community today?
5) Concluding Prayer
I am listening. What is God's message?
Yahweh's message is peace for His people,
for His faithful, if only they renounce their folly. (Ps 85:8)