New Wine, Fresh Skins

Matthew 2:18-22

Yesterday, a youth group called Fuerte (“strong” or “powerful”) held a press conference at our parish, St. Clare of Montefalco, to launch their Voto por mi fe (“I vote for my faith”) campaign.  The purpose of the campaign is to encourage civic engagement, especially to register to vote and vote their values as Catholics.

Fuerte was founded a couple of years ago in response to the mass shooting of students at a high school in Florida.  Students here in Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood wanted to call greater attention to the daily violence that occurs in our community but is often underreported or dismissed as “just the way things are.” They believe that addressing violence, especially with guns, is not merely a matter of law and order but demands a deeper dive to reach underlying issues of poverty, lack of opportunities, discrimination, despair and what Pope Francis has called “the globalization of indifference.”

One of the more moving parts of the press conference was to stand with this group of Latino students as they sang the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome.  It was especially poignant because it was the weekend on which people throughout our country celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I stood there, singing with them, my mind drifted back two generations, when that same song was sung by African American youth as they fought for their civil rights, especially the right to vote.

In our gospel reading, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the new wine of his gospel must be poured into fresh skins.  It is the task of each generation to receive that wine, in their own time and place, and to provide the skins that can receive it.  Young people like the members of Fuerte remind us that many are embracing this task.  As the Church, we don’t need to “give them voice.”  They have voices of their own.  We just need to stand with them.—jc