Monday, January 16, 2012

New Wine into Fresh Skins

January 16, 2012

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

John's disciples and the Pharisees were keeping a fast, when some people came to him and said to him, 'Why is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?' Jesus replied, 'Surely the bridegroom's attendants cannot fast while the bridegroom is still with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the time will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then, on that day, they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins too. No! New wine into fresh skins!' Mark 2:18-22


Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963)


Here we are near the beginning of only the second week in Ordinary Time in our new liturgical cycle and already Jesus the rebel comes to the forefront. It is somewhat fitting that this apparent episode of civil disobedience falls on the holiday when we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you watch the televised news today or listen to the radio, chances are good that you will hear a recording of the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. King that was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. But while this is his most popular speech, I have always been more inclined to The Letter from the Birmingham Jail.

Like Christ and John the Baptist and Peter and Paul and others too numerous to mention, Dr. King and many others in the struggle for justice and civil rights saw the inside of a jail cell. He did not pass Go. He did not collect $200. In April, 1963, five months before the March on Washington and five years before his assassination in Memphis, Dr. King found himself on the inside of a jail cell writing to fellow members of the clergy in the same way St. Paul wrote epistles to the early Church leaders.

Dr. King told his fellow clergymen, why he was in Birmingham.

"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. "

The bottom line for Dr. King was that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Just as Jesus embraced the creative tension that his lack of fasting created, so too did Dr, King embrace the tension of his direct action. He wrote:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.


What will be your plan of action for today? What tension will you create and cultivate that will help pave the way for change? Dr. King wanted to bottle a new wine of action in the south nearly 50 years ago. What action and injustice do you want to address today?

No comments: