New Wine, New Skins
I’m not sure about you, but it’s easy to see the prophets as one group, so that one merges into another, but they each have a distinctive voice and a particular context. Our first reading today is from Amos, who lived in the eighth century BC (nearly 3,000 years ago) and he is one of the more pessimistic prophets. Time after time he condemns the corruption of the leaders of the Northern Kingdom and reminds them that the practice of the faith is not just about external practices and rituals but about taking responsibility for our actions and loving our neighbour. Our reading today comes right at the end of the book and it’s full of hope and abundance: God’s ultimate message is not punishment but forgiveness and reconciliation.
Our Gospel is a very familiar one - new wine, fresh skins. Not being wine-makers, the lesson may be slightly lost on us. New wine ferments. It has a power within it and the skins need to be up to the challenge - otherwise the skins will burst and the wine runs out.
And so it is with us. We are the skins and the wine the life of Christ that we have received. Some of us may feel that we are very old skins. Especially at this time, we may feel anxious and weak and exhausted. How often do we feel that our skins, as it were, are about to burst and everything that is good pour out! And yet, no matter what our age and condition is, there is always a freshness that Christ brings. His power ferments within us. And we just have to go with it - to say ‘yes’ to Him, ‘so that the wine may find enough room in us and expand according to the power of its newness’ (Adrienne von Speyr). Amos was right. The faith is not just about empty actions but about saying ‘yes’ to God, no matter where that ‘yes’ takes us, and then ‘the mountains will run with new wine and the hills all flow with it.’