Psalm 85:9, 11-12, 13-14
In the last few weeks many of us have attended weddings, and so today's Gospel by Matthew brings us to something fresh in our memories. "Can the wedding guests mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them?" asks Jesus in this passage.
When my wife and I traveled to Connecticut in May for the wedding of a dear cousin's daughter, we were deeply impressed with the bride's singing the Ave Maria at the end of Mass, and with the obvious love the groom showed to his new wife. As at our own wedding many years ago, Christ was part of the ceremony, and He would stay with the married couples as He would stay with His Church.
The passage continues with the familiar reference to new wine in new wineskins. Shortly after the Connecticut wedding, I traveled to England for an architectural study tour, and on it I had many occasions to consider the old and the new, and of containers and their contents. Our study group visited 21 castles and country houses, amazed by the grandeur of these structures built from the 15th through the 19th centuries. We attended lectures on the art objects that filled the stately homes, and on events connected with their Protestant and Catholic occupants. The beauty of the furnishings and the stories of heroes, martyrs and scoundrels had us all focussed on the past.
Our guide showed us, however, a spectacularly modern design for a huge country house under construction for a tycoon who could have anything he wanted. The floor plan resembled a drawing of an octopus, with rooms in hundred foot long spiraling, earth-hugging, titanium-clad tentacles. When it was completed, would we like to have it on the itinerary of a future tour?
We unanimously voted no. We preferred the old when it came to houses and their contents.
This design was too radical.
In today's Gospel we are reminded that the Bridegroom was not always going to be with His disciples in a physical way. The familiar and the reassuring would not always be with them. Jesus's design would be radical. As the Responsorial Psalm says, "the Lord speaks of peace to his people," but in this year of 2002 peace will not be found in our old ways, and justice will not be found in familiar old structures. Peace and justice must come about in ways that are new, in environments we must constantly change for the better.
On our study tour, we architectural historians spent nine days looking
backwards to old forms of expression. Ironically, the last thing
we did as a group was to exchange e-mail addresses. (To some of us
over 55, e-mail is a new medium of communication!) For nine days we shared
our love of the past, and yet ultimately, we knew we must taste new wine
in new wineskins. And for us Christians, Jesus the Bridegroom has
described the best of the new wine: it carries the sweet taste of
peace and justice.
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