January 20, 2020 (Monday) - Missing the Point - A Reflection on Mark 2:18-22

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 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 unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
 
The Bible has two books. One is called the Old Testament. The other is called the New Testament. They are interlinked, connected. Everything in the Old Testament points to the New Testament, where Jesus makes a new convenient with us. His body is broken and his blood is shed for the forgiveness of sins (see Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20), and in his resurrection we have new life. His laws are simple: Love God. Love your neighbor. Everything we need to do is contained in these. It’s new wine in a fresh wineskin.
 
Now the problem we face, and it is a serious problem, is that we keep trying to reconcile laws in both covenants when no reconciliation is needed. The Old Testament law is not binding on us; it never was. It was only binding on those to whom it was delivered: the Jews. Now Jesus didn’t abolish the law—he fulfilled it—and as the Catechism states Christians are “invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment” (CCC 2053). So if we know the Master—Jesus—we will know what to do. 
 
But do we know the Master? Do we know Jesus? In order to know him we have to follow him, listen to the things he says, learn from him on how to live, obey the things he asks us to do. And some these are crazy things. Turn the other cheek if somebody slaps you on one. Walk an extra mile if somebody makes you carry his bags for one. Forgive those who hurt you without limitation. Tell me this isn’t crazy. But this is what loving God and loving neighbor truly is. And this is what was at the heart of the Old Testament law, but people didn’t get it.
 
Now, we can understand why the Jews didn’t get to the heart of the law. They didn’t really understand God’s love. And they didn’t understand how to get to heaven. They thought getting to heaven was just a matter of following rules — they had 613 of them, by the way — and if they ticked off all 613 boxes, they were gonna sit with Abraham and Jacob and the rest of the OT gang in heaven. And Jesus would try to tell to them over and over again that they were missing the entire point — and they still didn’t get it.
 
I think many times we don’t get it too. We think that being a Christian is following a set of rules, or doing a set of prescribed exercises. Go to church once a week. Make a confession once a year. And we’re set. Those of us who want to show we have a little more faith pile on a few more items on our Things To Do list. The really adventurous dig into the Old Testament for more things they can tick off. But being a Christian is about being like Christ. And we can’t be like Christ by following rules. We become like him by being in relationship.
 
And then all those things that seem tough actually become very easy to do.