Thursday, May 3, 2012

Personal Contact

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
May 1, 2012

John 15: 1-8

According to the gospel story in John, Jesus, on the eve of His death, revealed His deepest wish to His disciples: "Remain in me." He knows their cowardice and mediocrity. He has reproached them on many occasions for their little faith. If they don't remain vitally linked to Him, they will not be able to survive.

Jesus' words could not be clearer and more expressive: "Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me." If they don't remain firm in what they have learned and experienced at His side, their lives will be empty. If they don't live in His Spirit, what He has initiated will die out.

Jesus uses emphatic language: "I am the vine and you are the branches." The sap that comes from Jesus must run through the disciples. They must never forget it. "Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." Separated from Jesus, we, His disciples, can do nothing.

Jesus not only asks them to remain in Him. He also tells them that His words remain in them. That they should never forget them. That they should live out His Gospel. That is the source from which they must drink. He had already told them on another occasion, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life."

The Spirit of the Risen One remains alive and operational in His Church in many ways today, but His invisible and silent presence acquires visible traits and a concrete voice thanks to the memory preserved in the gospel stories by those who knew Him closely and followed Him. In the gospels, we get in contact with His message, His lifestyle, and His plan for the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, the gospels contain the most powerful force the Christian communities have to regenerate their life. The energy we need to regain our identity as followers of Jesus.  The Gospel of Jesus is the most important pastoral tool for renewing the Church today.

Many good Christians in our communities only know the gospels "second hand". Everything they know about Jesus and His message comes from what they have been able to reconstruct from the words of preachers and catechists. They live their faith without having personal contact with "Jesus' words".

It's hard to imagine a "new evangelization" without giving people a more direct and immediate contact with the Gospels. Nothing has more evangelizing strength than the experience of listening to Jesus' Gospel together in light of the questions, problems, suffering and hopes of our time.