The Word Among Us

July/August 2024 Issue

New Wine in Fresh Wineskins

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

New Wine in Fresh Wineskins: Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There are some sayings of Jesus that we can find difficult to comprehend. Take this one, for example, which talks about how wine was stored in Jesus’ day: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins” (Luke 5:37-38).

Everyone hearing Jesus would have pictured a typical wineskin of the day: a leather sack with a spout that a traveler used to hold wine or water. They also knew that an old, unused wineskin would become hard and brittle, unable to contain still-fermenting wine without bursting at the seams.

But Jesus was speaking about something far more precious than actual wine. And the “wineskins” he had in mind were far more important than actual wineskins. For him, new wine was the Holy Spirit, and the wineskins were our own hearts.

New Wineskins. Just think: when you were baptized, Jesus poured the new wine of his Spirit into you. And as you have grown in your faith and professed that faith every Sunday at Mass, you have invited the Holy Spirit to take greater charge of your life. Without using those exact words, you have told the Lord that you want your heart to be like the “fresh wineskins” Jesus spoke about (Luke 5:38). So what are some signs that this is actually happening?

One clear sign is your ability to hear the Lord in prayer. Whether in your personal prayer time or as you are kneeling before the Lord at Mass, you can hear his quiet voice in your heart. Maybe you sense him assuring you, “I am with you.” Or maybe you sense him urging you to forgive someone or to reach out to someone in need. All of these are signs that you are becoming a new wineskin in which the Spirit dwells.

Another sign of the Spirit is a growing awareness of the glory and the majesty of Jesus. You sense how great and holy he is, and you feel moved to bow down in worship and to obey his commands. Just as St. Paul was transformed by knowing that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11), so the Holy Spirit is revealing Jesus’ lordship to you.

Finally, you can tell that you are becoming a “fresh wineskin” as you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to serve God’s people. You come to see that serving others is serving Jesus himself, and you want to live like the saints who “no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

There are so many other signs of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Over the next several weeks, invite the Holy Spirit, the new wine of Christ, to penetrate more and more of your heart. Ask him to make you more open to him, like a fresh wineskin. Then watch to see how he changes and transforms you!

Jeff Smith,
[email protected]