A Reflection on a reading from Matthew 9:14-17 for the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
If you are anything like me, maybe you have experienced what I’m about to describe:
You are sitting in a religious setting (a retreat, Mass, Mission Trip), when suddenly someone that you knew two years ago gets up to start leading. At the time that you knew this person their leadership would have been the very definition of hypocrisy and even though you haven’t seen them for those two years you only see them as who they were. You wonder if the people around you know who this person “really” is, if they know them like you do.
Have you ever had this happen? I have, and I can say with confidence that some of my college acquaintances would think the same thing when they hear about my involvement in ministry. Several years ago my involvement would have been the epitome of hypocrisy, but I am not the same person that I was before. I certainly face some of the same struggles, but with conversion comes new creation. This is what I think of when I hear Christ talking about the new wine and old wine skins. With the life of grace we are made new creations. You don’t put new life into an old creation, but new life enters a new creation. The proud spirit does not enter into communion with others, for it draws away when humbled, but the already humble is grafted into the community as perfectly as the shrunken patch that Jesus speaks of. These parables are essential for us to remember, because too often we demand that people accept the authenticity of our conversion and yet we deny that others could really change and be changed. Spiritually this means forever holding someone’s sin against them. Secularly, we put this mentality on display for those reentering society (those formerly incarcerated). After doing their time and paying their debt to society, they are constantly followed by that box on applications, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” It is a box that impacts them and their families and forever identifies them with the worst decision they have made. We are all sinners, found guilty of spiritual felonies. Yet, at the same time, with the grace of God working in our lives as a constant source of conversion, we can say with Paul “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives within me.” Now, are we willing to let others profess the same thing?