No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak.
If [they do], its fullness pulls away,
the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.
Downstairs in the laundry, I have an envelope of iron-on cotton patches, enough to repair a coat of many colors. A while back, I inherited a wonderfully comfortable and warm fleece-lined flannel shirt from another priest who had died. I didn’t mind that the sleeves were too short, but I had to do something about the threadbare elbow on the left sleeve. That’s when I discovered iron-on patches. I’ve never considered it before, but in light of today’s scriptural admonition not to sew a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak, the cotton in my colorful iron-on patches must have been prewashed. In all these months, that patch has never pulled away from the elbow of my left sleeve.
When I was a boy, my dad challenged me with a mental puzzle. He asked me to imagine a doughnut-shaped tube, like the tube I would play with when I went swimming. He said, “Imagine that you cut a small hole in the tube, and you reach in and grab it from the inside and pull the whole tube out through the hole. What would the inside-out tube look like?”
It took several days to realize that the inside-out doughnut-shaped tube would still essentially be a doughnut, the difference being that what had been in the dark was now exposed to the light.
That’s the Christian life for you. God turns us inside out and exposes our darkness to light. Our elbows will wear thin, and from time to time, we will need someone to iron on a patch. Life reduces us, but God reuses, recycles, and sheds divine light on us. That is what the Reign of God looks like.
Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.