The early Christians were convinced that in order to follow Jesus it’s not enough to be baptized by water or some such ritual. It’s necessary to live drenched by his Holy Spirit. That’s why these words of the Baptist are recorded in many different ways: «I have baptized you with water, but he (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit».
It’s not all that strange that they especially remember the need to be guided, sustained, strengthened by his Spirit in moments of crisis. The Book of Revelation, written at the critical time when the Church lived under the emperor Domitian, repeats over and over to those Christians: «Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches».
The unprecedented cultural change in which we are living is asking of us Christians today an unprecedented faithfulness to Jesus’ Spirit. Before we think of strategies and pastoral plans in the face of this crisis, we need to ask ourselves how we are welcoming Jesus’ Spirit.
Instead of beating our breast over and over about our growing secularization, we need to ask ourselves what are the new paths that God is searching out today in order to meet the men and women of our day, and how we need to renew our way of thinking, speaking, living our faith so that God’s Word can reach out to the questioning, doubts, fears that arise in their hearts.
Before elaborating projects tweaked to their last detail, we need to transform our outlook, our attitude, our relationship with today’s world. We need to look more like Jesus, allow ourselves to work for his Spirit. Only Jesus can give the Church a new face.
Jesus’ Spirit goes about alive and well even today in the hearts of people, though we don’t even bother asking how the Spirit relates to those who have separated themselves definitively from the Church. The time has come to learn to be «the Church of Jesus» for all, and only he can teach us how.
We don’t need to speak only in terms of crisis. Conditions are also being created in which what’s essential in the Gospel can resonate anew. A Church that is more fragile, weak and humble can bring it about that Jesus’ Spirit be understood and welcomed more truly.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf