To make new ways
The early Christians saw, in what the Baptist was doing, the prophet who prepared decisively the way for Jesus. Hence, over the centuries, the Baptist has become a call that keeps urging us to prepare ways that will allow us to welcome Jesus among us.
Luke has summarized his message with this cry from the prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” How do we listen to this cry in the Church of today? How do we find ways so that we men and women of our time meet him? How do we welcome him in our communities?
The first thing is to realize that we need a much more lively and personal contact with him. One cannot just be nourished with religious doctrine. We cannot follow a Jesus that has been turned into a sublime abstraction. We need to be vitally in tune with him, to let ourselves be attracted by his lifestyle, to be infected with his passion for God and the human being.
In the middle of the “spiritual desert” of modern society, we have to understand and configure the Christian community as a place where the gospel of Jesus is welcomed. We need to live the experience of us believers, little believers, somewhat believers, and even non-believers, gathering together around the gospel account of Jesus. We must give him the opportunity to penetrate with his humanizing force our problems, crisis, fears and hopes.
We should not forget. In the gospels, we do not learn academic doctrine about Jesus that is destined to age unavoidably over the centuries. We learn a lifestyle that can be lived at all times and in all cultures: Jesus’ lifestyle. Doctrine does not touch the heart, it neither converts nor enamors. Jesus does.
The direct and immediate experience with the gospel account brings about our birth to a new faith, not by way of “indoctrination” or “theoretical learning,” but rather through vital contact with Jesus. He teaches us to live faith, not out of obligation, rather out attraction. He makes us live the Christian life, not as a duty but as a contagion. In contact with the gospel, we recover our true identity as followers of Jesus.
Going through the gospels repeatedly and carefully, we experience that the invisible and silent presence of the Risen One acquires human traits and regains a real voice. Suddenly everything changes: we can live accompanied by someone who puts sense, truth and hope in our lives. The secret of the “new evangelization” consists in putting ourselves in direct and immediate contact with Jesus. Without him, there is no engendering a new faith.
José Antonio Pagola
December 9, 2012
2 Advent (C)