Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
The Scriptures bear witness to a well-known truth about human beings and human behavior; namely, it is difficult to let go of old ways and to adopt new ways. The new year is only a little more than two weeks old. Already the funny papers are pointing out that all those New Year's resolutions have gone by the wayside.
Both of the readings for today's liturgy accentuate this truth. In the case of the Hebrew Scriptures, we find that Saul has already fallen out of favor with God just six chapters after he was anointed king of Israel because he could not change. Burnt offerings were standard operating procedures in ancient religions. Animal and human sacrifice was commonplace. Gradually and slowly, God was trying to move the Israelites away from such practices, first by doing away with human sacrifice. As the years passed, the emphasis on animal sacrifice also diminished in Judaism. Today, main stream religions do not engage in burnt offerings of any kind. Saul, however, did not grasp the notion that God wanted obedience rather than burnt offerings. Because he allowed his armies to sacrifice cattle after the victory over Amalek, he was cast down from the throne of Israel.
Jesus speaks of new wine and new wineskins in answer to the objections raised about fasting by his disciples. Once again, the message is clear; God is bringing about something radically new in Jesus. Caring for one's neighbor is the kind of sacrifice God wants from us. Denying one's self is secondary to the commandment to love one another. The opportunities for fasting are multitudinous; the opportunities to live out the commandment to love are fewer and more precious.