January 17, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbot

I can imagine someone with new wine, looking for a place to put it.  I cannot imagine someone with a new piece of cloth looking for a cloak to patch with it.  The easy solution to the problem would be to wait for the wine to get old or find an old piece of cloth.  Jesus does not take the easy solution. 

Jesus has something new: the truth, the fullness of truth.  It is new to us, although it is older than the universe.  It is always new because it is eternal.  Jesus not only has something new, he is something new.  He is the new wine.  He is the new cloth.  He cannot change himself to fit the world.  He must change the world to fit him.

There is a sense in which we are old, worn out.  There is no better sign of youth than joy.  A young person without joy seems old.  An old person with joy seems young again.  We are old because we lack joy.  Jesus comes and he cannot just be more of the same.  His joy is perfect.  It is a bit much for us old grouches. 

Now we can see a metaphor that Jesus might have used in the 21st century: nobody hates new things like old people.  As much as the oldest grouch in the world hates the idea of Twitter, someone without joy hates the idea of a Savior.  If we want to imagine how the Pharisees felt about Jesus, we should watch Andy Rooney talk about Facebook. 

When Jesus came, and he is new, he insisted that his disciples rejoice while he was with them.  No fasting for his disciples, at least not yet.  Not until there could be a joyful fast.  Indeed, this is the mark of a Christian: a joyful fast, joyful suffering, joyful life.  A martyr is not someone who died for Christ; all sorts of people have died for all sorts of stupid things.  A martyr is someone who died joyfully. 

Whether you are 8 or 80, if you are going to be a Christian, you must be young, you must be filled with joy.  Not a fake joy, not an imaginary joy, but a real joy given to us as the first fruit of the Holy Spirit, as the first commandment of God’s will for us in Christ: “Rejoice always.”