Recovering the freshness of the Gospel
In the prologue of John’s Gospel, two basic statements are made that require us to revise radically the way we understand and live the Christian faith. We have to do so after twenty centuries of our straying not a few times, of reductionism and approaches not quite in agreement with Jesus’ Gospel.
The first statement is this: “The Word became flesh.” God has not remained silent, forever locked up in mystery. God has spoken to us. God’s self-revelation has not been through concepts and sublime doctrines. The Word has become flesh in Jesus’ life of tenderness, so that even the most simple may understand and accept it.
The second statement goes thus: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed God.” We theologians speak about God a lot, but no one of us has ever seen God. We religious leaders and preachers speak about God with certainty, but not one of us has seen God’s face. Only Jesus, the only Son of the Father, has related to us what God is like, how God loves us, and how God seeks to build a more human world for everybody.
These two statements are the background of Pope Francis’ renewal program. That is why he is looking for a Church rooted in Jesus’ Gospel, without our getting caught up in doctrines or “customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel.” If we do not seek such a Church, “it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.”
The Pope’s stance is clear. God’s mercy has been revealed to us only in Jesus. That is why we need to return to the transforming power of the first evangelical proclamation, without eclipsing the Good News of Jesus and “not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed.”
The Pope is thinking of a Church in which the Gospel can recover its power to attract, without its getting obscured by other ways of understanding and living the Christian faith today. That is why he invites us to “recover the original freshness of the Gospel” as the most beautiful, the greatest, the most attractive and, at the same time, the most necessary; he asks us not to enclose Jesus “within our dull categories.”
We cannot now allow ourselves to live our faith without strongly promoting in our Christian communities conversion to Jesus Christ and to his Gospel. The Pope is calling us to this conversion. He himself asks all of us “to apply [his] guidelines … generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear.”
José Antonio Pagola
January 5, 2014
2 Sunday after Christmas (A)
John 1, 1-19