The word of the Baptist from the desert touched the hearts of the people. His call to conversion and to begin a life that is more faithful to God awoke in them a concrete question: What must we do? This is the question that always arises in us when we listen to a radical call and don’t know how to make our answer concrete.
The Baptist proposes neither religious rites, nor norms nor precepts to them. It’s not really about doing things or fulfilling duties, but about being someone new, living more humanly, unfolding what’s already in our hearts: the desire for a life that is more just, worthy and fraternal.
What’s most decisive and realistic is to open our hearts to God, looking attentively to the needs of those who suffer. The Baptist knows how to sum up his response to them with a formula that is famous for its simplicity and truth: «Anyone who has two tunics must share with the one who has none, and anyone with something to eat must do the same». So simple and clear.
What can we say in the face of these words, we who live in a world where more than a third of humanity live in misery, struggling each day to survive, while we go about filling our closets with all kinds of clothes and our refrigerators with all kinds of food?
And what can we Christians say in the face of this call that is so simple and so humane? Don’t we need to start by opening the eyes of our hearts to live more conscious of that insensitivity and slavery that keeps us bowing down to a well-being that prevents us from being more human?
While we go about rightly worried about many aspects of today’s Christianity, we don’t realize that we live «captive to a bourgeois religion». Christianity as we live it doesn’t seem to have the power to transform our society of well-being. On the contrary, it’s this very thing that is impairing what’s best in Jesus’ religion, emptying our following of Christ of the values that are so genuine like solidarity, defense of the poor, compassion and justice.
That’s why we need to value and appreciate all the more the effort of so many people who rebel against this «slavery», committing themselves to concrete gestures of solidarity, and cultivating a style of life that is simpler, more austere and more human.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf