There’s an old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And that’s fine, as far as it goes. But the danger is that sometimes we get so attached to that principle that we fail to recognize when something is, in fact, broke.
That’s what the prophet Amos has been complaining about in the first readings over the last week or so. Today’s reading is much more conciliatory, because it comes after the punishment, after Israel had already felt the consequences of their sinfulness and gone into exile. But Amos’s theme has been to prophecy against the way Israel’s leaders had been so focused on the laws that they had missed taking care of the poor, needy, oppressed, and widows and orphans. They had convinced themselves they could cheat the poor if they just paid attention to the laws governing worship. Their practice of their faith was, well, broke. Only they didn’t want to fix it.
And that’s what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel: stop trying to fit everything new into the old wineskins. God is trying to fix what’s broke, trying to do something new, only the religious authorities keep trying to make it fit with what they already saw as important, or else throw it out. And for the disciple, that’s just not acceptable.
We do that too. How often have you heard: “but we’ve always done it that way?” Our traditions are certainly important, but we can’t be so focused on them that we miss the movement of the Holy Spirit. If God is trying to do something new in our lives, who are we to try to stuff it into old wineskins, old ideas of what works, old ideas of what our relationship with God must be? When we try to do that, well, the whole life of faith just falls apart.
We have to be open-minded to what God is doing in our lives. We have to be good discerners. We have to be open to the possibility of God doing something new in us and in our community. We have to be ready to meet all that fresh wine with brand spankin’-new wineskins, so that God’s activity in our lives can be preserved, and our faith can be freshened. So for those things in our lives that are, in fact, broken, let us let God fix them.