Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lk 2:19-22

"Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins." (Lk 2:19-22)

In today's Gospel, we hear the self-spoken characterization of Christ as the bridegroom, the bride being the Church. Christ also prophecies of his own death, and subsequent departure from this world that would happen even after his Resurrection. Jesus Christ knows that there would be some new channel necessary for His message to be proclaimed. He does this by establishing the Church. Christ came and fulfilled to the utmost degree all the prophecies of the prophets that we still revere today. But though he came to fulfill Judaism, and though he came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17), He establishes an entirely new Church with a new structure.

In the time after the plans to convene the Second Vatican Council were announced by Pope John XXIII, one of his aides made the suggestion that he simply pick back up on the First Vatican Council. "We are already infallible enough," he said, and dismissed the idea in favor of a new council. Just so, Christ establishes a new Church and in this Church, He weaves His divine will, as God, just as he says in the metaphor for the new, unshrunken cloth and fresh wineskin. The very purpose of Judaism was Jesus Christ, and when Christ came and fulfilled His purpose, Judaism had run its course. It was time for the old to step aside for the new, not because hey..it‘s hip and new, but because it was the God’s plan. The new was the Church which Christ founded and which He ordered to teach all nations, baptizing them, and teaching to observe all that He has commanded them. One of the commands Christ left us was to eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, lest we have not life within us.

In Acts of the Apostles, we see the Apostles pass this mandate and power on to new men. The power is the power to confer the Sacraments. The chief among these Sacraments was the Eucharist. This "new" Christ speaks of is the Church, and the Church is the caretaker and deposit of the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood (Mt 26:28).

In the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we hear Paul talk about the spirit. St. Paul says that "for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life." Now, this is not to say that we can dismiss the teachings of the Church because "hey man, it’s all about the spirit", but rather that spirit is necessary for true followers of Christ.

Take no greater example than Christ himself. When Jesus is out in the desert for forty days and forty nights, Satan tempts him tries to lure him into sin. "If you’re so damned spiffy, turn these rocks into bread" and what not. Christ shows such spirit in those times of trial, and when He has comes back after weeks away in the desert, the first thing that should come to mind is His spirit. We speak of the "spirit", but do we actually see it and when we do, do we see it for what it is? Spirit is character, it is integrity, it is perseverance, and it is faith. Spirit does not exist without these virtues, nor vice-versa. Also, in the time Christ spent in the desert, we must remember that Christ combated the empty promises and temptations of the devil with what? He combated and refuted them with the law and the letter. "Is it not written?" is Christ’s catch phrase during this time. So we should not take St. Paul’s word as a pass to ignore in any or all parts the letter, as that would be defying the example of Christ, the man whom St. Paul told us he imitates.

St. Paul further tells us "You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ ministered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh." I’m not sure about you, but I get a little nervous reading this. How can one not be, when St. Paul is revealing to us that it is upon our very hearts that the letter of the spirit of God is to be written upon? This is a call to live our lives with integrity, with practicing what we preach, so that the law of God may be noticed in the letter and in our example, in our spirit. We are called by Christ to be salt and light, but in order to be able to do that we must first be light that shines and salt that brings out flavor. If we do this, our hearts will be written on with the spirit of God. When we harden our hearts so it is unsuitable to be temples of the word of God, there is always the Sacrament of Confession where Christ is willing to accept us back, clean the slate, and soften our hearts that we might be suitable temples of the living God, true light and shines and true salt that brings forth flavor, and soften our hearts so we may live without hypocrisy and with integrity the faith we hold and the standards we expect, or at least should expect, from ourselves and from others. Christ is waiting to hear back from you, so especially in this season of repentance and of sacrifice, let us return to the Lord in Confession and receive His of forgiveness.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.