Changes are a part of life. Some of those changes are gradual, like growing older, and other changes are more abrupt, like moving to a new home or getting a new priest in a parish. The more abrupt and profound the change, the more time it takes to adjust. I’ve been here for almost a month, but I won’t really know my way around town, and become really integrated into the community, until I’ve lived the full cycle of at least a year with you. I need to experience all the beauty and challenges that each of the four seasons brings to our area, to get lost in the side streets of Gloucester and Rockport, and discover where more of you live and work, and to share more of your joys and sorrows.
The coming of Christ and the revelation of His identity as God the Son, with all that implies, was a huge change for the Pharisees and scribes. The Lord’s message was truly Good News, but for many of the Jews, the emphasis was on the “newness” of what Jesus preached. They had been brought up and trained in a rigidly and extensively legislated form of religious practice, with no idea of the Holy Trinity. Jesus did not fit into that world view. As St. Paul describes in the first reading, Jesus is God made flesh, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Through Him all things were created, and all things are subject to His authority. With that authority, He guided His disciples in a more compassionate form of faith, that exchanged the rigid formalism of the Jewish Law for a personal relationship with God and a greater sense of human dignity. He did not eliminate all the rules, but taught that the rules are a means to loving and serving God, not an end in themselves. No wonder He said the disciples had a right to rejoice!
Many of the Pharisees and scribes did not adjust well or quickly to the resulting change of religious practice and perspective. But Jesus is understanding; in the second parable in today’s Gospel, He implies that He did not expect them to leap from the Old Testament to the New Testament from one day to the next. They would not be able to understand the Gospel without having a profound renewal of heart and mind. In the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that in fact some of the Pharisees and scribes did eventually experience this conversion of heart.
We are all going through changes of one kind or another, in our personal lives and, especially, in the life of our parish and the whole Church – we have new priests in our parish, we will soon have new translations of the Mass in the missals, our Mass schedule will probably be tweaked again… and so on. On one hand, we need to be patient. We may have been happy with the old wine, the way things were ten, thirty, or fifty years ago, but God is moving us on. The one thing that remains truly constant for us, though, is the presence of Christ in our midst, in the Eucharist, in the Word of God, and in each other. In Him, “all things hold together”; He is always the “Head of the Body; the Church”, even if some of the externals change. Only in Him can we find the fullness of life. May He grant us the grace to hold fast to Him, our Good Shepherd, in all the ups and downs of life.