Jesus appeared in Galilee when the Jewish people were going through a deep religious crisis. They had been feeling for a long time God’s remoteness. The heavens were “closed.” Some sort of an invisible wall seemed to hinder God’s communication with his people. No one was able to hear God’s voice. There were no more prophets. No one spoke, driven by God’s Spirit.
The hardest was the feeling that God had forgotten them. He no longer cared about Israel’s problems. Why was he remaining hidden? Why was he so far away? Surely many remembered the fervent prayer of an ancient prophet who prayed thus to God: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.”
The first to listen to the gospel of Mark must have been surprised. According to his account, when Jesus came out of the waters of the Jordan after being baptized, he “saw the heavens being torn open” and experienced “the Spirit coming down upon him. Finally, encounter with God was possible. A man full of God’s Spirit was walking the earth. His name was Jesus and he came from Nazareth.
This Spirit that descends 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 is why Jesus is committed to liberating life, curing it and making it more human. The first Christians did not want to be mistaken for the Baptist’s disciples. They felt they were baptized through Jesus with his Spirit.
Without this Spirit everything is extinguished in Christianity. Trust in God disappears. Faith is weakened. Jesus ends being reduced to a character from the past, the Gospel becomes a dead letter. Love grows cold and the Church does not get past being just one more religious institution.
Without Jesus’ Spirit, freedom is strangled, joy is quenched, celebration becomes habit, communion cracks. Without the Spirit, the mission is forgotten, hope dies, fears increase, the following of Jesus ends in religious mediocrity.
Our greatest problem is our forgetfulness of Jesus and the neglect of his Spirit. It is a mistake to try to attain, with organization, work, devotions or various strategies, what only the Spirit can give birth to. We need to return to the root, to recover the Gospel in its freshness and truth, to be baptized with Jesus’ Spirit.
We should not fool ourselves. If we do not let ourselves be fanned into life and recreated by this Spirit, we Christians have nothing important to contribute to today’s society that is so empty of interiority, so incapable of the love that brings solidarity, and in so much need of hope.
José Antonio Pagola
January 4, 2015
2 Sunday after Christmas (B)
John 1, 1-18