At the heart of both of today’s readings is the question of obedience to God. At first, it does not seem clear why Saul is reprimanded or why Jesus and his disciples aren’t simply being difficult. Doesn’t Saul do something good by offering sacrifice? Isn’t fasting an appropriate way to pray?

Upon further reflection, I realize that there is something else going on here. Both Samuel and Jesus are pushing their listeners and us to see that obedience means, first and foremost, having an open and attentive heart to our living God. Our rituals are good, but if they divert our attention from the living Christ who is in our midst, then they become stale and unhelpful.

Today, I realize that God is waiting to pour new, fresh wine. I am being called to a deeper freedom. Am I willing to let go of any old wineskins for new ones?

—Dan Finucane teaches theology and coordinates Campus Ministry activities at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis MO.