Letter or Spirit of the Law

Letter or Spirit of the Law

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Gospel Reflection MK 2:18-22

Something I encounter on a regular basis is that Christians are too often so focused on the letter of the law, rather than the Spirit for which the law was intended. This is evidenced here by the Pharisees objection to Jesus and his followers not observing their fasting requirements. 

So, what is the “Spirit of the Law” ?  Another time when Jesus was asked a similar question, he replied that we are to “love God” and “love our neighbors as ourselves,” and that these two concepts embodied the entirety of the Old Testament Law. 

In the Christian era we are presented with another paradigm; the Love of God is exemplified in our applying Jesus’s gift of redemption to our individual lives and striving to do the will of the Father. Our love for neighbor is best displayed when we share the love of God for other — presenting the truth we have been handed in the historic deposit of faith.

 
In today’s Gospel, Jesus and His Spirit are the “new wine” and in this particular parable, Judaism (old religion and law) are the “old wineskins”.  Jesus is saying first that you can’t pour His Spirit into stale legalistic religion.  But it also implies that we can’t go back to our old ways and attitudes, or the Spirit of Christ will be grieved.   This would be the same as turning away or shipwrecking our faith (Heb 6:4-6, 1 Tim 1:19, 6:10, 21, 2 Tim 2:18).
 
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The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,  but your disciples do not fast?”
 
Jesus answered them,
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.
 
No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
 
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins,
and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

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