If there is one thing that is predictable about Jesus, it is that he is unpredictable! He is not holding fast to the ritualistic requirements of the Jewish leaders of his time. He is baptizing and teaching, but he and his disciples are not leading the ascetic lifestyle to which John the Baptist and his followers adhere.
In response to the criticism, Jesus uses some distinct images that would have been familiar to his accusers: The bridegroom, new wine, and new wineskins. Who is the bridegroom? Jesus. The prophet Isaiah referred to our redeemer as husband (Is 54:5) and John the Baptist, in the gospel of John (3:29) compares himself to the best man of the bridegroom, who is filled with joy in his presence. Jesus says that the close friends of the bridegroom, rightly rejoice with him. Jesus also talks about a time when the bridegroom would be absent, a time for fasting. A prediction of what is to come.
Jesus is always doing something new. New wine in new wineskins. What is the new wine? The Good news! What do the new wineskins represent? Us!
Old wineskins that are filled with new wine would not be supple and able to stretch, thus the skin would burst, and the wine would be lost. The new wine, the good news of God made man, sent to redeem us, is to be poured into new wineskins, us! We have been chosen to receive this incredible, eternal life changing, news.
When our churches were closed during the pandemic, we fasted. The Bridegroom was no longer present to his bride, the Church, in the Eucharist. It could be said that the mystical Bride of Christ, the Church, had a small taste of what it would mean to feel the absence of the Bridegroom. We were unable to attend the heavenly banquet. We experienced life without the Eucharist, the true presence of Jesus. And it brings to mind the many people who have never heard the gospel message of Jesus Christ and his saving action. That the gates of heaven have been opened for us and eternal life has been promised. They have been invited to the banquet but never received the invitation. We must be the invitation and make sure that it is received.
Just as grape juice ferments and is completely changed into wine, we too are to be transformed by the Word of God, the good news. As it enriches and intensifies our faith, our fervor grows, nourished by the Sacraments and the Word, we are challenged to become ever holier, never to be the same again.
Like new wineskins, we must expand, we cannot merely contain this good news, but we must allow the gospel message to change us and be poured out to others. We must invite people to the banquet of the Lord and introduce them to the Bridegroom to share the joy of his presence and observe the times when we mourn his loss. We must offer them a glass overflowing with the new wine, the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and of his Kingdom.