THE MAIN THING
Some first century Christians were very interested in not being confused with followers of the Baptist. The difference, according to them, was worlds apart. The «Baptists» lived out an external ritual that didn’t transform persons: a baptism of water. The «Christians» on the other hand allowed themselves to be interiorly transformed by Jesus’ Spirit.
Forgetting this is deadly for the Church. Jesus’ movement doesn’t sustain itself with doctrines, norms or rituals lived out in externals. It’s Jesus himself who must «baptize» or drench his followers with his Spirit. And it’s this Spirit that should energize, drive and transform them. Without this «baptism of the Spirit», there is no Christianity.
We mustn’t forget it. The faith that exists in the Church isn’t in the documents of the magisterium or in the books of the theologians. The only real faith is that which Jesus’ Spirit awakens in the hearts and minds of his followers. Those simple and honest Christians, of Gospel intuition and compassionate heart, are the ones who truly «reproduce» Jesus and introduce his Spirit in the world. They are the best thing we have in the Church.
Unfortunately there are many others who don’t know by experience that power of Jesus’ Spirit. They live out a «second-hand religion». They don’t know or love Jesus.
They simply believe what others say. Their faith consists in believing what the Church says, what the hierarchy teaches or what the scholars write, though they don’t experience anything in their heart about what Jesus lived. Naturally, with the passing of years, their attachment to Christianity ends up dissolving.
The main thing we Christians need today aren’t catechisms that correctly define the Christian doctrine or exhortations that rigorously and exactly say what are the moral norms. With these alone no one gets transformed. There’s something that comes first and is more decisive: tell the story of the person Jesus in the communities, help believers to put themselves in direct contact with the Gospel, teach how to know and love Jesus, learn together to live his way of life and his spirit. To recover the ‘baptism of the Spirit’ – isn’t this the first task in the Church?
Jose Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf