Jesus appeared in Galilee when the Jewish people were going through a deep religious crisis. They’d gone a long time feeling far from God. The heavens were «closed». A kind of invisible wall seemed to block God’s communication with the people. No one was able to hear God’s voice. There were no prophets. No one spoke, driven by God’s Spirit.
What was hardest was the sensation that God had forgotten them. No longer was God worried about Israel’s problems. Why was God keeping hidden? Why was God so far away? Surely many remembered the fervent prayer of an ancient prophet who prayed thus to God: «Would that you would rent open the heavens and come down».
The first people who heard the Gospel of Mark had to have been surprised. According to his account, when Jesus came out of the waters of the Jordan after being baptized, he «saw the heavens opened» and experienced «the Spirit of God coming down upon him». Finally it was possible to meet God. A man full of God’s Spirit was walking the earth. His name was Jesus and he came from Nazareth.
That Spirit that descended on him is the breath of the God who creates life, the force that renews and cures the living, the love that transforms everything. That’s why Jesus dedicated himself to liberating life, curing it and making it more human. The first Christians didn’t want to be confused with the Baptist’s disciples. They felt themselves baptized by Jesus with his Spirit.
Without that Spirit everything stops dead in Christianity. Confidence in God disappears. Faith weakens. Jesus ends up reduced to a character from the past, the Gospel becomes a dead letter. Love grows cold and the Church doesn’t get past being just one more religious institution.
Without Jesus’ Spirit, freedom is strangled, joy is extinguished, celebration becomes habit, communion is broken. Without the Spirit mission is forgotten, hope dies, fears increase, the following of Jesus ends up in religious mediocrity.
Our greatest problem is forgetting Jesus and neglecting his Spirit. It’s wrong to pretend to accomplish organization, work, devotions, or various strategies – all things that only can be born of the Spirit. We need to return to the root, recover the Gospel in its full freshness and truth, be baptized by Jesus’ Spirit.
Let us not be fooled. If we don’t let ourselves be brought back to life and recreated by that Spirit, we Christians will have nothing important to give to today’s society that is so empty of interiority, so incapable of the solidarity that comes through love, so in need of hope.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf