Wine and wineskins
New and Old…. Duty of a theologian
All three synoptic gospels has an interesting story about wine and wineskins. I take the version of Luke here (others are not very different).
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. (Luke 5, 37 -38)
The classical interpretation is that the kingdom of God (or the teachings of Jesus) is the new wine, which shouldn’t be put into our old wine skins (or old categories). Read teachings on love, or parables like good samaritain or the prodigal son, and this radicality is very clear.
Can there also be a supplementary reflection for a classical-Christian (who is Christian for a long time) or for a theolgian? I base myself on some of the reflections given by Joseph Moingt SJ (a well known french jesuit theologian who gave this reflection at the age of 94, wrote his last book in 103, and died last year at the age of 104).
After years in the faith journey, our faith (the erst-while new wine of the kingdom of God) may become fossilized. Theologians can think that they know about God. Probably, this can be a moment where the new wines can be offered to us. Not always from the pulpits or the church authorities, but even from the most unexpected corners. May be from an atheistic philosopher; may be a poor in the street; may be from a so-called wayward Christian; may be from one of the “signs of times”; may be from a widow or a Samaritain as in the gospel. They are definitely inspirations of the Holy Spirit, if we have the open-ness to see the actions of Holy Spirit beyond the boundaries we ahve established for the Holy Spirit.
We can either respond saying that we already have new-wines (which probably is fossilized now, though we don’t like to accept it) or accept the new wine as a call or inspiration to radically live my faith. The newness of the “Kingdom of God” is not always given once and for all…. Holy Spirit can continue to surprise us. They can be moments of Catharsis or conversion or transformation if we don’t behave like many characters in the gospel (priest or levite in the parable of Good samaritain or the rich man who put a big offering).
In the parable of the sower, the “crazy” sower sows the seeds in all kinds of soils. Depending on the quality of soil, the fruits are being produced. But there was no question of the quality of seed, atleast of the seeds in the hand of Jesus. The problem of the quality of soil will continue in all generations; every soil won’t accept the seed. But in our times, even the seeds are many a times of poor quality (seeds of fossilised faith). If we don’t let our faith be renewed by all the inspirations given by Holy Spirit, our sowing wont produce any results even in the best soil. Jospeh Moingt SJ might agree that Christians and theologians should continue in the journey of renewal, in the journey of accepting the possibility of not knowing everything (about God or human beings or anything) and open to the new wines being offered, which may require drastic modifications of the old wineskins.
The next verse of the Gospel quoted above is “And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5, 39).
NB: I know that I have not clearly stated the duty of theologian. But there are hints, and I think that should suffice. I am not yet a theologian to say more.