08Jul 08 July. Saturday, Week 13

Saint Killian, missionary and martyr

1st Reading: Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29

Rebecca disguises Jacob so that blind Isaac gives him the first-born’s blessing

When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son” and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau.

Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

So he went in to his father, and said, “My father” and he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, “Ah, the smell of my so is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

Gospel: Matthew 9:14-17

The disciples need not fast so long as Jesus, “the bridegroom,” is with them

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”


Accepting things old and new

Matthew shows Jesus as focussing his efforts on his own Jewish people, seeing his ministry as being to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6), and seemingly uninterested in the plight of foreigners, like the Phoenician woman who happened to show up in Palestine. Yet in the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), Matthew makes clear that Jesus’ new vision perfects and goews beyond the old Mosaic law, “You have heard the commandment, but now I say to you,” The change from Judaism to the work to be now achieved is found in the conclusion of Matthew, “Full authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth; go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” (28:18-19).

The new vision is introduced with “full authority” over “heaven and earth.” Jesus gave strong indications that his work extended beyond Israel to something new. There was a striking difference between his disciples and those of John the Baptist. We cannot sew unshrunken cloth, or animal skins that have not been tanned, onto old leather cloaks; the new will proceed to shrink, pull away and the rip will only get worse. Also, when animal skins are used to hold fermenting wine, new skins will stretch, while old skins will burst open and the wine will be lost. These examples from a thoroughly Jewish culture point to a dramatic discontinuity with the past, in Jesus’ preaching and outlook. What began on the outer edge now moves to the centre. There is to be rejoicing, an entirely new cloak rather than an old one with patches, new wineskins for the new wine.

Change provokes many types of reaction. But we should try to remain at peace, willing to adapt to whatever new circumstances God and history have put us in. The ways of Providence are surely leading towards a noble, final goal, but they pass through the vagaries human existence, welcome and unwelcome. We must always seek and pray to be worthy disciples of Jesus, letting him pour his new wine into new wineskins, and be as realistic as he was, in accepting change.

The bridegroom is with us

In the gospel, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom and to his disciples as the bride. He suggests that his public ministry is like a wedding celebration, a time of rejoicing during which fasting is not appropriate. In keeping with that wedding image, Jesus speaks of the new wine of his ministry, new wine that keeps calling for new wineskins. We are always in the presence of the divine bridegroom and the Lord is always offering us new wine, the new wine of God’s kingdom. That new wine will require us to keep abandoning old wineskins for new ones. The Lord, the Spirit, does not allow us to get too comfortable. We always stand before the Lord’s call for a renewal of life that is worthy of the presence of the bridegroom, a renewal that is capable of containing, in some way, the new wine of the kingdom of God.

Saint Killian, missionary and martyr

Kilian, (or Killian or Cillian, c. 640-686), from Mullagh, County Cavan, was an Irish missionary in Franconia (northern Bavaria), where he ministered around Würzburg and converted to Christianity Duke Gozbert and many others. When Kilian warned the Duke that he was in violation of sacred scripture by being married to his brother’s widow, Geilana, she was so angry that she sent soldiers to where Killian was preaching, and had him beheaded with his colleagues Colonan and Totnan