Anne O’Brien, Deputy CEO (Mission People and Culture), reads from the Gospel of Matthew (9: 14-17) in which Jesus, when asked why John the Baptist’s followers and the Pharisees fast often, but his disciples did not, says, ‘Put new wine into fresh skins and both are preserved’.

Anne notes, John’s disciples in today’s Gospel appear not to have understood the radical newness of Jesus’ life and mission.

An early Church Father, one said, “Christ’s coming brought with him all newness”. However, ‘newness’ can feel challenging for us.

We can find ourselves romanticising about the past and being fearful of embracing the “newness” Jesus brings. Christ’s newness proclaims a passionately loving God who has no favourites.

Jesus commanded us to love one another just as he loves. That can be difficult, as we may want to love our friends and families but resist the idea of loving enemies.

However, that is the love Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated for us in his death on the cross and his forgiveness of his killers.

John’s disciples had emerged from a Jewish religious culture with a strong dependence on rules and regulations. This can be a pitfall for us also.

Do we sometimes act in the belief that if we follow certain church rules, we shall be fulfilling God’s will?

This can rob us of the freedom and newness that Christ offers. A particular challenge for Catholics today is to embrace renewal, deepen our faith and be true disciples of Jesus, to rejoice in his life-giving teaching and to follow his example.

In closing, Anne invites us to pray:
Father, thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus, to lead us deeper into your mystery. Give us courage when we face challenges and help us always to be faithful to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.