The Readings today speak of a full and new life. Jesus was asked by the disciples of John the Baptist why his disciples do not fast when John’s disciples fast. In reply Jesus tells them his disciples cannot mourn while the Bridegroom is with them. Jesus also says a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away and then, his disciples will fast. Fasting is not just a spiritual discipline. Instead, fasting is an expression of what our hearts long for: Jesus himself. Our hearts long for Jesus so much, that this longing is expressed in our bodies through fasting.
Jesus also said we should not put new wine to old wineskins or patch a new cloth on an old cloak. When we find life in Jesus, there has to be a complete change in our perception and therefore also our lives. Repentance is complete turnaround from sin and movement towards Jesus. Repentance is not patching what is defective. Repentance is complete change, first in my way of thinking especially on my relationship with Jesus, which leads me to change my actions. This change in my relationship with Jesus is transforming my person into another person. It is like replacing an old wineskin with a new one so new wine can be poured into it. When we patch our lives without changing the way we think, we end up damaging ourselves.
This is the message of Amos in the First Reading. We read a couple of days ago of the prediction of Amos on the death of the king of Israel and of the fall of Israel. Now Amos prophesies restoration for the kingdom where God will raise up the booth of David and repair the breaches and raise the ruins and rebuild it as of old. The old was completely destroyed and out of it, God will raise something new. What will that day look like? It will be one of peace and fullness. The Psalm tells us, God promises peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
The peace Jesus gives is not one that is absent of conflict or war. It is one where we are in union with God. There will be conflict with the world around us because the world around us have different values. But when we turn our hearts to God, when we crave for God, then God will reconcile us to himself. Our works of charity, our good works will not reconcile us with God. Psalm 52 tells us a humble and contrite heart you will not despise. God will make all things new when we we turn to him and are reconciled with him.
Reconciliation is a gift from God. It is God’s work and when we turn to him, he receives us and gives us peace. Reconciliation is admitting we have fallen short of God’s expectations, that we have rejected him and are now coming back to him in our hearts. The Sacrament of Confession is powerful when celebrated properly. When we come to confession only out of duty, we are not getting the full power of the Sacrament, not because of any deficiency of the Sacrament, but because we limit its power to change our lives. When we celebrate it to cleanse of our sins without that desire to change, then we are committing the mistake Jesus pointed out in the parable: sewing a new patch to an old cloth. The patch will tear the old cloth and make the hole bigger. Repentance requires a change we relate with Jesus.
If I see Jesus as giving me whatever I want, doing whatever I want, then I will treat him however I want. But when I turn my heart to him, submit to him and obey him, out of my love for him, then God reconciles me to himself and makes me a new creation, ready to receive the new Wine who is the Holy Spirit.
We celebrate Elizabeth of Portugal today. She is known to be a Peacemaker because she reconciles conflicting parties. Let us ask her to pray that we be reconciled with our Father in heaven, to have a heart that craves for him and that turns to him in humility.
Lord, I have rejected you and have been indifferent in my relationship with you. I now turn to you, asking you to heal me and to give me new life. Forgive me for rejecting you. Change my heart and my mind, so that I may desire only you. Come Lord, reconcile me to you. St Elizabeth of Portugal, pray for me.