“WOULD YOU MAKE ALL THINGS NEW?” (Mk 2:18-22): 21 January 2008 (St. Agnes, Monday)
One of the most unforgettable scenes in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” has Mary rushing to her fallen son after overcoming her own fears. Gathering strength from her mother, Jesus picks himself and his cross up and tells her, “Behold, I make all things new!”
Reading about old wineskins and new wineskins in today’s gospel reminded me of that scene and Christ’s words to his mother.
Sometimes I feel like old wineskin. I’ve had days when I felt like “an old cloak,” as our Lord puts it, incapable of taking new wine. Those are days when I just wanted to stay in bed, blanket over my head, and remain in hiding long after the alarm clock rang, when things that used to make sense suddenly did not anymore, and for some reason, through no fault of theirs, friends who used to be able to provide such support and laughter just couldn’t.
I suspect we’ve all seen days like that. Sometimes we know why we feel that way: Maybe we’re just sick or tired–or both. Maybe something has gone wrong somewhere in our lives as it sometimes does–perhaps at work, in the family, or in our relationships. But there are also times we simply haven’t a clue why we suddenly feel empty or dark. Thankfully, sometimes the feeling doesn’t last. But there are times when it can last for days, for weeks, even for months. For mid-lifers, it’s been identified as a crisis that one should expect to go through.
When I went through mine some years ago, I got two valuable pieces of advice. The first I found in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem called “God’s Grandeur.” In one brilliant line, he reminds us, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” In other words, don’t forget and never stop believing that despite “the toil and the smudge and the smell” of our daily existence, there remains hidden beneath the surface of things what is always new. If we keep looking for it, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, we can draw from this “freshness deep down things,” and God willmake us new.
The second piece of advice came from a friend who sent me a refrigerator magnet, of all things, that said: “If you’re going through hell, just keep going!” In other words, don’t give up. If you keep walking, before you know it, you’ll get past hell. And it’s true. One day I woke up and felt like a new person, all my feelings of emptiness and darkness miraculously gone. I’ve gotten past my hell! It is true then that many times the only way out of hell is through it.
So when we feel like old wineskin and things seem to keep going wrong, when we feel like giving up and hiding from the world, and we just need the Lord to “make all things new,” it may help to remember those words of wisdom that I found in a poem and in a refrigerator magnet years ago: “Just keep looking and just keep going!”
(image: from “The Passion of the Christ”)
Note: Here is the full text of Hopkins’ poem (cf. line 10). I’ve also uploaded a reading of it by Richard Austin from his recording “Back to Beauty’s Giver.”
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)
Now, here is a Quick Question for YOU: “Do you remember the last time you felt like ‘old wineskin’? What helped you?” Think about it, and feel free to share any thought, feeling, or question.