by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Jesus appeared in Galilee when the Jewish people were experiencing a deep religious crisis. They had been feeling distant from God for a long time. The heavens were "closed". A sort of invisible wall seemed to block God's communication with His people. No one was able to hear His voice. There were no longer any prophets. Nobody was impelled by His Spirit to speak.
The hardest was the feeling that God had forgotten them. Israel's problems no longer concerned Him. Why was He staying hidden? Why was He so far away? Certainly many remembered the ardent prayer of one of the prophets of old who prayed thus to God: "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down."
Those who first heard Mark's gospel must have been surprised. According to his narrative, on coming out of the waters of the Jordan after being baptized, Jesus "saw the heavens being torn open" and felt "the Spirit of God descending upon Him." The encounter with God was finally possible. A man filled with the Spirit of God walked on earth. His name was Jesus and He came from Nazareth.
This Spirit that descends on Him is the breath of God that created life, the force that renews and cures the living, the love that transforms all. Therefore, Jesus devotes Himself to liberating life, healing it, and making it more humane. The first Christians did not want to be confused with the disciples of John the Baptist. They felt they had been baptized by Jesus with His Spirit.
Without this Spirit, everything in Christianity is extinguished. Trust in God disappears. Faith weakens. Jesus is reduced to a figure of the past. The Gospel becomes a dead letter. Love grows cold and the Church is no more than just another religious institution.
Without Jesus' Spirit, freedom is stifled, joy goes out, worship becomes a mere custom, communion is broken. Without the Spirit, the mission is forgotten, hope dies, fear grows, following Jesus ends up as religious mediocrity.
Our greatest problem is forgetting Jesus and neglecting His Spirit. It's a mistake to try to achieve through organization, work, devotions or various strategies what can only be born of the Spirit. We have to come back to the root, regain the Gospel in all its freshness and truth, be baptized with the Spirit of Jesus.
We mustn't fool ourselves. If we don't let ourselves be revived and created anew by this Spirit, we Christians have nothing significant to bring to today's society, which is so empty inside, so incapable of love and solidarity, and so in need of hope.