According to the Gospel of St. Mark (2:22), Jesus admonishes his disciples about the folly of pouring new wine into old wine skins. Some interpret this advice to mean that as new ways are embraced old ways must be abandoned.
Jesus also says that he has come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). Together these two comments of Our Lord suggest that, rather than rejecting the old as we encounter the new, we should build on and transform the former to enable a fuller and richer realization of the latter.
As it relates to the Church this concept is consistent with the ecclesial imagery of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. Without losing their essential identity, bodies change over time. With appropriate care and nourishment they “grow into” what they are destined to be. So it is with the body of the Church of which we are all members. Guided by the Holy Spirit, and nourished by grace, the Church is ministered to or attended by all the baptized, whether they are part of the ministerial (the ordained) or the common (the lay) priesthood.
A recently arrived member of the NCCF community offers a compelling example of how new spirit can be breathed into “matured” bodies in a way that rejuvenates rather than rejects.
As its website states (www.renewintl.org), RENEW International “fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action.” RENEW accomplishes this through a wide array of ministries including small group faith sharing, parish based evangelization, priestly renewal, ‘theology on tap,’ ‘campus renew’ and many more.
As an example, ‘campus renew’ provides a two and a half year process which facilitates small Christian groups of 8 to 12 students who meet weekly to share their faith, experience community and be challenged toward service. Another program, ‘RENEW Africa,’ helps participants experience their faith “celebrating Sunday Eucharist, responding to the call to love and serve, gathering as small communities reflecting on Scripture and returning to Sunday Eucharist – enabling parishes to become a communion of communities united in the Lord”.
RENEW International has a 30-year record in revitalizing parish life in more than 150 dioceses in the United States and has served participants in 23 countries across 6 continents and in 44 languages. It would not be surprising if readers of this column are not already acquainted with this vibrant organization which has touched the lives of over 25 million people in this country alone!
Recognized under Canon Law as a “private association of the faithful,” RENEW International works in partnership with the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management to meet the highest standards in areas of program operations, governance, human resource and financial management.
Because of organizations like RENEW International the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, grows and changes but does not break or die. Isn’t it wonderful to belong to such a body of saints and sinners spanning so many centuries?