Two Thoughts on Today's Readings

Why, hello, long-neglected blog. Not sure precisely why the impulse to place this here, but what the heck: going with it. Two disconnected thoughts that popped out while meditating on the scripture readings for today's Mass.

The first is from 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, where Paul is talking about God being the only true judge and everyone's hearts being manifest on judgment day. Since Paul says he has nothing on his conscience, but he doesn't even judge himself but leaves it to God, I've always understood the passage in the negative, the emphasis being on judgment: in the end, evil will be exposed, so a) be on guard that your own heart be pure and b) have fortitude; all will be made right in the end.

No doubt that meaning is there, but for some reason this morning the last line of the passage is what jumped out at me: "he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God." The praise that is due, no doubt (thus the warning element is maintained), but praise. That got me thinking about how awful it is to be misjudged. I can think of several instances, still painful in memory, when in all sincerity I wanted to do a person a good turn or was acting out of entirely pure motives and the action went badly awry and I was completely shocked and hurt by the bad reaction. It's easier to accept having made a mistake than it is to have one's motives misapprehended and rebuked. I think about that in particular with respect to my kids. I cannot express how much I love them, and often enough my "love" goes awry and wounds where it intended to tease or praise. How marvelous to think that all those agonizing wounds of misunderstanding will one day be healed. Some day that one person will know not only that I wasn't mean, but that she was loved....What a miracle of joy and mercy and healing to one day understand how much we have been served, been loved, been thought well of, been appreciated, been seen, been prayed for --not only by God, but by others, all our lives!  Everyone's goodness, including our own, will be revealed. 

My mom used to claim (not that she's wrong, I've just never encountered the passage) that C.S. Lewis says that more people than we understand are "on their way up" as it were, and it will be one of the joys of heaven to see people we never expected there. (And I suppose they'll have the surprise of seeing us!) That's a happy thought in this run-up to an election that has divided friends and brought out the rash judgment in everyone. Some day we will all see how much good was intended. 

The second thought comes from the Gospel passage, Luke 5:33-39, when the Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples don't fast. Jesus says they'll fast when the time comes and then makes these two analogies: people don't ruin a new garment to patch an old one, and people don't put new wine into old wineskins, because they'll burst.  I've never understood these analogies to be frank. Jesus seems to be saying that old and new don't mix, somehow, but since that doesn't in any way jibe with the message of repentance and salvation for all, that passage has always been opaque to me. This morning suddenly it seems obvious: Christ is saying things need time to ripen.  If you tear up a new garment to patch an old, you just ruin both and have nothing. If you put new wine into old wineskins, the skins will burst and you'll have neither wine nor the old weathered skins you waited so long to have. 

The key, I think, is again the last line: "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.’” I couldn't understand the passage previously because I was trying to read Christ's words as a defense of the disciples and a rebuke to the Pharisees. It *is* a defense of the disciples, but one of a different nature than the one I'd been searching for.  Here I think his defense is along the lines not of, "You're wrong, they're right,"  but more along the lines of, "Patience, give them time." You know how fresh converts are delightful in their love for the faith and their excitement about each new discovery -- but they're also obnoxious and very green?  I imagine that's what Christ is acknowledging to the Pharisees. Yes, they're green. But they're also full of fresh zeal and love, in the first throws of getting to know the Lord and his love. Their faith needs maturation, and that will come soon enough with the Cross. But you can't rush these things. And when their faith has matured? That will be like the best old wine: very good.