Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 3, March 2011
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor
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Reflections for the Christian Season of Lent

Based on two lectures delivered by
José Antonio Pagola
at the University of Cantabria, Spain
3-4 November 2010

Translation to English by Iglesia Descalza
First Lecture, Jesus' Alternative, 21 January 2011
To read the first lecture in Spanish, click here and here.
Second Lecture, Coming back to Jesus, 11 February 2011
To read the second lecture in Spanish, click here and here.

mesaparatodos First Lecture: Jesus' Alternative

On November 3rd and 4th, 2010, the Spanish theologian José Antonio Pagola gave two lectures on Jesus at the University of Cantabria in Spain. Atrio reproduced these lectures dividing each one in half. We are bringing them to you in English. Here are the Atrio transcriptions of the first lecture in Spanish:
Nothing can give me more joy than speaking about Jesus and, above all, doing so in an open forum where it is easy for believers and nonbelievers to listen, which gives me even greater joy.

Let me begin by telling you that today, in the sectors concerned about Jesus and about researching the history of Jesus, He is being spoken about in a very new language. I'm going to tell you some of the things that are being said about this Jesus whom we love and believe is ours, that He belongs only to our faith. Today, people who aren't even believers say things like this: Jesus doesn't belong only to Christians; He is part of the human heritage. Others say: Surely Jesus is the best that history has given and it would be a tragedy if humanity forgot Him some day. Also: Jesus not only inaugurated a new religion, but a new era. Never in history, some say, has a greater religious symbol occurred than Jesus' project, that they call the Kingdom of God. If the world paid attention to Him, it would change; if it became the backbone of culture, politics and religion, mankind would live in a horizon of hope not dreamed of today. And others: it's true that it's in crisis, the end perhaps of a Christian religion greatly influenced by Greek philosophy and Roman law, but we're on the threshold of a new development of the Jesus movement.

Jesus still has not given the best. Jesus could still be a real surprise, and I'm seeing more and more that Jesus is being spoken of as the soul that the world needs to live in a more dignified and hopeful way. I want to talk now about this Jesus. Today's conference is titled "Jesus' Alternative". It's an attempt to summarize Jesus' project with some clarity and in a somewhat lively manner.

We believers think that God is incarnate in this man. Others do not believe so, but all of us -- all believers, of course -- are interested to see how this man lived and what He wanted to introduce into human history.

We all know that Jesus was born in Galilee where, in the 30's, obviously, there wasn't the separation between what we know how to differentiate spontaneously today -- the economic, the cultural, the political, the social ... this was not possible in the society in which Jesus lived. There isn't even a word for "religion" in Aramaic. Of course, Jesus was a religious man, but He lived in a society where religion was implied, guiding, justifying, promoting a whole way of understanding and experiencing life and society -- so much so that, at the time, for the Hebrew people, the Torah, the law of Moses, the law of God is, at the same time, the Constitution, so to speak.

As we get closer to Jesus we see that, in this society, He isn't a scribe, a teacher of law, nor is He a priest. He doesn't teach a doctrine per se. We sometimes have imagined that the most specific aspect of Jesus was teaching the true religion, a doctrine that the disciples would then have to disseminate the right way, but it isn't so. At the core of Jesus' preaching, beyond a doctrine, is a fact, an event, something that is happening, that He is experiencing and He wants to spread to everyone.

All researchers agree that the summary made by the evangelist Mark -- the first evangelist -- is the most correct. It says: Jesus proclaimed the Good News of God, God as something new and good. Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of God is near, that this God doesn't want to leave us alone to face the problems and challenges, but to steer our life in a healthy, happy way. Jesus invites us to change our way of thinking and speaking, He invites us to believe this Good News, to live believing in Him. Jesus perceives that a new era has begun, but we must welcome it. Today, all researchers believe that the Kingdom of God was the true passion of Jesus, the core, the heart of His message, the passion that inspired His life and also the reason why He was executed. The Kingdom of God is "Jesus' alternative".

Of course, the Kingdom of God is much more than a religion; it goes far beyond the beliefs, precepts and rituals of a religion. It's a way of understanding God and living that changes everything. As you see, Jesus wanted to introduce to the world a new experience of God that lets us live in a new way, with hope and a different horizon. This is the project, the Kingdom of God.

The surprising thing is that Jesus never explains what the Kingdom of God is in conceptual language. He doesn't know how to speak in formal language like the priests of the temple, or in the legalistic language of the scribes. Jesus is a poet. Today, Jesus' poetic side is highly valued. The metaphors, the images, and especially the parables of Jesus were some of the best in world literature at that time, in the first century. With this parabolic language, rather than speaking of doctrines, Jesus speaks of how life would be if there were more people who were more like God.

Deep down, Jesus had this passion, this fire within: How would life be in the Roman Empire if Tiberius didn't reign in Rome, but rather God, that is, someone who would do what God wants for humanity? How would Galilee change if Antipas didn't reign in Sepphoris and later in Tiberias, but someone who saw things as God sees them? How would the religion of the Temple in Jerusalem change, if Caiaphas weren't there and if a priest reigned who really wanted what God wants? That was Jesus' obsession. And we have to ask ourselves: What would our society and our Church be like, if there were more and more people, men and women, who were a bit more like God?

To speak of the "kingdom", Jesus uses a political term, not a religious one. The evangelists translated it into Greek and used the expression basileia, a word that, in the 30's, was only used to talk about the Roman Empire, the Empire of Tiberius. While Jesus was in Galilee, Tiberius was resting on Capri. He was an older man who just wanted riches, honor, power ... but he was the one who, with the Roman legions, had created the Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, the international order ... everything that, in Jerusalem where the high priests spoke perfect Greek, was defined by the term basileia.

You can imagine the surprise, the anticipation, and also the suspicion that Jesus must have caused when He began to say that the Kingdom of God -- not that of Tiberius -- was near, and invited all to enter that kingdom. What was Jesus trying to do by introducing a "kingdom" that wasn't of a politician, nor a religion, but of God?

When we pray the Our Father, we say "Thy Kingdom come." We don't ask to go to Heaven, but, with Jesus, we ask that His Kingdom come here first, to earth itself. So what then does Jesus mean when He invites us to enter the kingdom of God? For starters, we have to get out of other realms -- the realm of violence, the realm of money, the realm of terror -- to "enter" the "Kingdom of God".

I'll try to explain what this project of the Kingdom of God is for Jesus. I'm going to develop it in four points:
  • In God's project, the action principle -- the highest law -- is love, to put it concretely, compassion.
  • Second, the dignity of the least as an aim. Jesus wants to orient everything towards the least. The Kingdom of God is creating among all, with the collaboration of God, a more humane, more dignified, friendlier, happier, more blessed society, starting with the least. It's the only way to proceed. We must always mention this "starting with the least" when we talk about Jesus.
  • Third, healing action as a program. Jesus came to heal life.
  • And finally -- we mustn't forget this because we all need it -- forgiveness as a goal. How could there not be forgiveness for all, if Jesus on the cross asked for forgiveness for those who were executing Him? They were not repentant, and Jesus forgave them. Jesus, the Son of God incarnate cries out to the Father: "Forgive them, they know not what they do."
1. Compassion as an action principle

God is merciful. This is the basis of the actions of Jesus. Today, research agrees unanimously that Jesus of Nazareth lived and communicated a healthy experience of God. Jesus did not project onto the face of God the fears, ambitions, and ghosts that all religions, including the Christian one, project onto God.

Jesus never talks about an indifferent God, cold, oblivious to human beings, turning His back on our problems...Nor do we see Jesus presenting a God who is worried about His own interests, His glory, His liturgy, His temple, His sabbath...God is concerned about us. Neither does He speak of a God who wants to rule the world with natural laws that the Creator has introduced in the very reality of creation -- a very valuable theology that comes from Greece, from Greek philosophy. In the substrate of the experience of God that Jesus has, is that God is compassionate, He is tender. Compassion is God's first reaction to His creatures. That is, the first thing that God feels when looking at us is compassion. Jesus says that God feels for His children what a mother feels for the child in her womb, that is, God carries us in God's womb.

The most beautiful parables, the ones Jesus worked on most, and perhaps those He most repeated, are always those through which He wants to share with the people His experience of a compassionate God.

In the parable we usually call "The Prodigal Son", the real protagonist isn't the son, but the good father. The first people to hear that parable must have been totally surprised. This wasn't what they heard from the masters of the law in the synagogue, nor from the priests in the temple in Jerusalem. Is God like this? Like a father who isn't concerned about his heritage, but respects the behavior of his children, even when they make blunders, who isn't obsessed with his morality, but follows everyone closely -- the one who is at home and the one who is far away? A God from whom you can drift away but to whom you can return without any fear, because He will be waiting for you? Remember how the father is watching to see if the son is coming, and when he sees him still far off, the father was filled with compassion for him -- literally "his insides trembled" -- he lost control and ran and hugged and kissed him warmly ... in public! Never did a patriarch of those families act like that, it was a women's thing. He treats him maternally; he doesn't let him continue to confess. He has suffered enough; he doesn't demand anything of him. He makes no rite of purification, even though he returns impure. He requires no penance of him. He immediately thinks he has to show him what it's like to live with the father. We will have a feast, he says, and asks the oldest son to come, to welcome him. Is God like that? Is God someone who wants to guide us all towards a final feast, in which the feast of freedom, of dignity, true happiness, will be celebrated?

The parable talks about lost sons who come back to the father and are welcomed by him, faithful sons who have to welcome the brother, and it talks about a banquet, a feast, music, dancing...Is this God's secret? Do we believe in this God?

There is another surprising parable that we usually call "The Workers in the Vineyard" although, really, the protagonist is the owner of the vineyard, a good man who wants work and bread for all. As you know, he goes out into the plaza at 6 in the morning, at 9, at 12, at 3 in the afternoon, and finally at 5...when there's only an hour left until the end of the workday. And surprisingly, he pays everybody one denarius, which is what a family needed to live each day in Galilee. When he pays them all the same, those who came first protest, and the owner asks them: "Are you envious because I am generous?"

This parable must have caused widespread bewilderment. What is Jesus suggesting? The owner of the vineyard doesn't look at the merits of each person, whether he worked hard or worked little. What concerns him is that everyone have something to eat tonight. Is it possible that God is like this? Could it be that God, rather than being concerned about our merits, is concerned about responding to our needs? This shatters all our preconceptions. What could the scribes of the law say and what can the moralists say today? Jesus is disconcerting, God is amazing. If God is someone who is compassionate, who, unlike us who are aware of how others respond to us, good or bad ... the first thing He feels is compassion for us, this would be the great news.

From this experience of a compassionate God, Jesus is going to introduce a principle of action: compassion.

Jesus was faced with a society where there were many groups, parties, spiritualities... but everyone agreed on the starting point. Everyone accepted that in a book of the Old Testament, Leviticus, it says: "Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy." The people must be holy to imitate a holy God. And who is this "holy God"? He who dwells in the holy Temple, a God who chooses His people, but curses the pagans, a God who accepts the pure and rejects the impure, a God who is a friend of the good, but hates sinners ... However, Jesus was called the friend of sinners, that is, when God becomes incarnate in a man, people see this man as a friend of sinners ... thank goodness!

This way of understanding the holiness of God as something contrary to the sinful, the impure, the contaminating, led Jewish society as Jesus knew it to be a tremendously discriminating and exclusionary society. To begin with, the holiest people, those who hold the highest rank for holiness are the priests because they have to enter the most sacred areas of the temple, and then came the people...the priests are, in some way, closer to God, the people farther away...and people still think this way. I have a neighbor, a senior, who used to tell me to pray for her because God will pay more attention to me...she thinks she is far, and that I, by being a priest, am next to God.

Males were considered to have a ritual holiness far superior to women, who were always suspected of being impure because of menstruation and childbirth; they couldn't be priestesses and they couldn't enter the temple...only a bit ahead of the pagans. The pious, the just, the observers of the law, they are blessed by God; the sinners, the cursed ones. The healthy were thought to be blessed by God; the sick, wounded by God. They couldn't enter the temple. Why would a deaf-mute enter the temple, if he couldn't hear God's law or sing the psalms? In other words, it seems like God is like us, we who like to always have pleasant, young, clean people near us...

When Jesus comes, He has to react from His experience of a compassionate God, and He does so in a daring way. Instead of saying, like Leviticus, "Be holy, because I, the Lord, am holy", Jesus says, "Be compassionate as your Father in Heaven is compassionate" and He introduces a totally new horizon into human history. Jesus doesn't deny God's holiness, but He makes it clear that what qualifies and defines the holy God is His compassion. God is great, He is holy, not only with us; He is holy not because He rejects the pagans, the sinners, and the unclean, but precisely because there is room for all in His holy heart. God doesn't exclude anybody. Anyone who draws near to Him will be welcomed, God loves without excluding anyone.

Therefore, read the gospel and you will see that compassion isn't just one more virtue -- like the works of mercy might be -- but it's the only way for us to begin to be like God. The way of looking at the world with compassion, looking at people with compassion, looking at events and the whole of life with compassion, is the best way for us to become more like God. It might seem that this compassion business isn't too much in fashion, it might be sentimentalism...some are kinder, they have more heart, others no...but it's not like that. For Jesus, compassion is an action principle; it's simply internalizing others' pain, that the suffering of others hurts me, and reacting by doing everything possible for that person and easing their suffering to the extent that I can.

All of you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the road is an injured man, left to his fate. Three travelers pass by. First, a priest and a Levite appear. They are men of the temple, holy men, those who represent the holy God in the temple. Probably the injured man would look hopefully at them. Representing God, they would have compassion for him. However, the priest came by, saw him, and made a detour. The Levite came by, saw him, and made a detour. Both of them have seen him, both have just come from the temple, they have worshipped the holy God, but they don't have compassion. Then a hated Samaritan comes by, who hasn't come from the temple -- he was prohibited from doing so at that time. Surely the injured man looked fearfully at him. He's afraid he's going to kill him. The Samaritans and the Jews were total enemies, but this man saw him and -- always the same verb -- had compassion. He was moved inside and approached him -- he made himself a neighbor -- and did everything he could for him. He heals him, disinfects him, bandages his wounds, sets him on his mount and takes him to the inn where he cares for him...He has compassion.

Is it true that the kingdom of compassion doesn't always come via religious routes, but that it can come through the compassion of a man who knows how to approach an injured person? In the parable, Jesus introduces a complete twist. The representatives of the temple pass by, the hated Samaritan heals compassionately. Compassion breaks down all barriers; even a traditional enemy, feared by all, can be a channel of God's compassion. The Kingdom of God can be built from religion and from other sectors, provided that compassion is alive.

2. The dignity of the least as a goal

"Living with compassion" was a message that was a big challenge for all. They were accustomed to living according to some religious principles. When Jesus came, He found a religion -- that of Moses -- that was 20 centuries old, and had modeled for all groups the spirituality of the temple, some dogmas that Jesus, with compassion, gradually diluted. The choice of Israel made them feel like the chosen people. They wanted to become "the navel of the earth" and they thought that when the Messiah from God came, he would liberate the Jewish people and destroy the Roman people. When the Messiah comes, he will destroy the sinners and save the saints ... However, when Jesus comes, He calls all of them to live out the Kingdom of God, because He wants a better, happier life for everyone, beginning with the least. He says you have learn to live from "a different place", with compassion for the suffering, defending the least, welcoming all unconditionally, defending the dignity of every human person.

If you read the Gospels from this key, you will not see Jesus concerned with organizing a religion like the others, attentive to how to do liturgy, the sacrifices in some other different, more dignified manner... but you will see Him calling everyone to accept this compassionate God and create a new society, looking out for the least. This was a revolution.

In Israel, everything was quite clear: God would intervene to destroy the enemies and annihilate the wicked. But Jesus comes and surprises everyone because He doesn't take the side of the chosen people against the Romans. The Kingdom of God is not going to be built by some people destroying and dominating others. All are waiting for the Messiah -- or God, depending on the version -- who destroys sinners and saves the just. However, Jesus approaches sinners and welcomes everyone to His table.

Thus He makes them see that the Kingdom of God will not consist of the victory of the good to make the evil pay for their sin. Jesus calls all to conversion and to live, looking out for the least, for the neediest, for the most defenseless and forgotten ones. And He starts to use provocative language: the Beatitudes, which are not a long list that Jesus gave one afternoon when He was more inspired, but shouts that Jesus gives at different times in His life and that the Christian communities gathered together for catechesis.

I will remember the three that everybody thinks certainly come from Jesus. When Jesus sees those people, the peasants of Galilee who have remained landless, pressed by tax debts, He tells them: Blessed are you who have nothing, the poor, the indigent, because you have God as king. The Kingdom of God is yours; the Kingdom of compassion, of kindness, of justice, belongs to you, before anybody else, to you. Jesus sees they are hungry, above all He sees all the children, the street children, He sees the women's hunger, and He tells them: Blessed are you who are going through hunger because God wants to see you satisfied. One day you will see Him, you are the first...Jesus sees how those peasants cry when they remain landless. The hardest thing for a peasant is to not have been able to defend his lands, or when they are gathering the harvest and see the tax collectors coming from Sepphoris, escorted by some small troops to take the best for themselves, and Jesus tells them: Blessed are you who cry now, because one day you shall laugh. One day God will make you happy.

We all have to start looking towards them. Jesus spoke with full conviction. What He says, I would translate today like this: those who matter least to people are those who matter most to God. Those who are left aside in the empires that we men build, the "excess material", are those whom God welcomes. Those who are most forgotten, the powerless, those are the ones who, before anyone else, have God as advocate and Father. Jesus is very realistic. He doesn't think that hunger and tears will disappear in Galilee. What He does do is give an indestructible dignity to all who are victims of abuse and injustice.

Look how we ought to learn to look at life. For God, the compassionate God, all those people who bother us because they beg from us, those who are in the street, the abandoned ones, the homeless..are the first. And this means that Jesus gives their dignity the utmost seriousness. Nowhere is the good life being built if the least are not being looked out for. Spain isn't doing well, Europe isn't doing well, the world isn't doing well, as long as we're only looking out for our interests and amassing more and more millions of hungry people in the world. And no religion will be blessed by God if it isn't a compassionate religion. Compassion makes us look out for the least. The greatest heritage of Jesus, the one that today not only believers but also non-believers see and value in Jesus is this: to welcome the Kingdom of God is to make all religions, not just the Christian one, all cultures and policies, look out for the least before anything else.

3. Therapeutic action as a program of the Kingdom of God

When looking at John the Baptist, we discover that all his activity is focused on sin. He is concerned with the sin of the people so he denounces sinners and invites them to repentance, offering them a liturgy of conversion and forgiveness.

However, he doesn't make a single gesture of compassion, of kindness. He doesn't heal any sick person. It seems as if he doesn't see the sick, nor the many children there were in those lands. He doesn't cleanse the lepers, he doesn't welcome sinners or prostitutes...Surely, the first thing that captured people's attention, as Jesus began to act, was the huge gap that existed between the great John the Baptist and Jesus.

In the pages of the Gospel, we see that Jesus doesn't stay in the desert, but goes walking all over Galilee. He draws near to the people, he wants to bring God with Him to visit the people. We can't imagine Jesus preaching conversion for the people and offering repentance to sinners, like those missionaries who used to travel through our towns and cities during Lent as a Paschal fulfillment.

Jesus approaches the sick, who are even brought to Him...such that we could say that Jesus is introducing a religious revolution of a healing nature, a therapeutic religion that has no precedent in Jewish tradition. Jesus announces salvation by healing; this is what's new. Jesus is concerned with sin, much more than we are, but He sees that, for a compassionate father, the greatest sin is to introduce injustice, unjust suffering, or tolerate it by turning one's back to it. For Jesus, sin is not something that is dealt with in morals books, an offense against God...Sin is embodied in those who are suffering and being forgotten by everyone, so He begins to heal.

Jesus' actions disconcert the Baptist, who sends some of his disciples to ask Him: "Are you the one who was to come, or should we wait for another?" Jesus answers them: "Tell John what you are seeing: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed,...and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. I have come to heal. Tell John not to be scandalized."

On another occasion, when they accused him of healing in the named of Beelzebub, the god of the flies, the god of the plague, He tells them: I cast out demons by the finger of God because the Kingdom of God is coming to you. When there is a struggle against suffering, when pain is alleviated, when a healthier life opens up...there, the Kingdom of God is in action. What Jesus did, basically, was heal life.

Don't just think about whether the healings Jesus accomplished were on the physical level, the psychological one, etc...Those healings are what best indicates and points to Jesus' whole project, because He doesn't heal arbitrarily or for sensationalism. The texts repeat again and again that Jesus had compassion. Jesus healed, moved by compassion. He sees that those who are most suffering are the first who need to experience in their own flesh how good God is. It's the most downtrodden, hopeless, the most broken, those who no longer even have a human face, who we have to put in the center of our hearts and our religion, because they are at the center of the Father's heart.

You could say that all the work of Jesus is aimed at creating a more healthy, more humane, more breathable, more bearable society... Remember, for example, Jesus' rebellion against many pathological behaviors with religious roots, how Jesus criticized the harshness, the legalism, the worship devoid of love ... Jesus wants to heal religion. His effort to create a more just and fraternal society, His offer of free pardon to all, His welcome to all those mistreated by life or the injustice of men ...

His cries -- "the last shall be first", "the prostitutes will enter the Kingdom of God before you"...are tremendous screams that are echoing here. Jesus' most repeated phrase is: "Be not afraid!" "Men of little faith, why are you afraid?" "Take courage, I have conquered the world." It's a call to confidence, to live in a different way.

When Jesus entrusts His mission to His disciples, don't imagine them as hierarchs, theologians, or liturgists, but rather as healers. And always, invariably, He gives them two charges: Proclaim that the Kingdom of God is near, that God is nearer than you think and He wants to take over this very disastrous life, and then...heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons...freely you have received, freely give. The first mission of the Christian religion is not to do theology, nor even to celebrate worship. Everything has its reason for being, but the first thing is to heal life, to be healers. A parish must be, before anything else, a healing community, so that in this neighborhood people live with healthier habits, in a more humane way, without forgetting anybody, drawing near to those who suffer most...that's the conversion we need.

4. Forgiveness as a goal

What provoked the greatest scandal and the greatest hostility towards Jesus was his friendship with sinners. Nothing like this had ever happened in Israel. It was unheard of. To many specialists, this is the most revolutionary trait of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea...are great men of God, but they don't surround themselves with sinners. They don't eat with them. No prophet, not even the Baptist, approaches sinners with the respect, the friendship, the sympathy that Jesus does. They were particularly disconcerted that He would invite everyone to His table and invite them to follow Him. How could a man of God accept these people as friends, these undesirables of society, without requiring a "novitiate" of them, a change?...It's scandalous, unimaginable that a man of God could eat with sinners. However, Jesus insisted on making this gesture, even though He knew it was provocative, but it was the clearest.

Searching in our sources, one immediately sees the reaction Jesus aroused. First, surprise. "This one eats with publicans and sinners." It's unheard of. And then the accusations: He's a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners. Shame! He doesn't know to keep His distance...

Meals were sacred in that society. You couldn't eat with just anybody. In Jesus' society, the rich eat with the rich, the poor with the poor, the Jews with the Jews, the pagans even ate unclean food, the Pharisees with members of the Pharasaic communities, in Qumran, only members of the community...What honorable and respectable person is going to eat with just anybody? However, Jesus insists on opening His table to all. One didn't have to be pure, one could be a clean woman, one could be a prostitute, one could be a pious man, one could be a sinner apart from the alliance...

It's that, as we said, in the Kingdom of God, compassion, welcoming mercy replace that exclusive holiness. The Kingdom is a table open to all. What is most characteristic...what identifies one of Jesus' groups is precisely not excluding anybody. As a believer, I'm convinced that probably there has never been anybody on Earth who has proclaimed friendship, forgiveness, God's welcome of all, including those who forget or reject Him, with as much strength, depth and realism as Jesus did.

In my style, I'll leave Jesus' final message resonating here, because I think we all have to listen to it. When you see yourself judged by the law, including religious law, do not forget God. Feel yourselves to be understood by Him. When you see yourselves rejected by society, know that God welcomes you. When no one forgives you, when no one understands that you could be better, think and feel God's endless forgiveness around you. You don't deserve it; none of us deserves it, but that's how God is. God is love and forgiveness. Never forget it; believe the good news.

I have tried to bring us near, albeit in a very incomplete manner, to what was the essence of Jesus. If this is Jesus' alternative, nothing can be more important in today's Christianity than returning to Jesus. We are distracted by many things, condemning and discrediting each other ... within the Church itself... without listening to Jesus. Actually this is what gives me pain and, of course, until I die, I will live just for this. We don't realize that the best thing we have in the Church -- the most valuable, the most attractive thing -- is Jesus. No one, not our pastoral programs, or our liturgies, can attract as Jesus can. The churches are in crisis, but not Jesus. People are more interested in Him than ever, while we here are distracted by many things.

In my next lecture, I will try to show, in a very simple way, that going back to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God made man, is the most urgent task we have in Christianity today.

mesaparatodos Second Lecture: Coming back to Jesus

On November 3rd and 4th, 2010, the Spanish theologian José Antonio Pagola gave two lectures on Jesus at the University of Cantabria in Spain. Atrio reproduced these lectures dividing each one in half. We are bringing them to you in English. Here are the Atrio transcriptions of the second lecture in Spanish:

Yesterday, after hearing about Jesus, most questions raised were around "what about us? And what about the hierarchy?" ... Jesus draws us towards something better and, therefore, the need for change immediately arises from various perspectives. So the issue that we will talk about today is: "Coming back to Jesus: the urgent task of Christianity today." Each of us has our own experience of how we are living Christianity in the Church today. Each person has his own sensibility, his journey and, surely, we all have a different view of things.

1. Some facts in the Church today

To begin with, I will highlight some major events that are happening today and that offer us an initial starting point to reflect on the need and the possibility of a radical conversion to Jesus Christ. A lot is happening, but I'll just mention three points:

The risk of an automatic reaction

During recent decades, the theological studies, surveys, polls, about the plight of the Christian churches in the West have multiplied. Trying to ignore such data would be a mistake. It would imply trying to move forward with our eyes closed. However, this is not the greatest danger. There is an even more dangerous risk. Conditioned by such sociological data, we run the risk of reacting automatically, without stopping to discern what the attitude of faithful followers of Jesus should be today. There is a real danger at present that the Church will shape itself from the outside with an instinctive reaction to the data offered by sociologists, and not as the fruit of discernment and a brave and confident openness to the Spirit of Jesus. I will mention a few aspects:

It's not difficult to see how attitudes of nervousness, of fear, are taking shape today in the Church -- behavior often generated more by the instinct for self-preservation than by the Spirit of Jesus who, as we say in the Creed, is always the giver of life.

It's also easy to see how a self-defensive attitude towards modern society is growing in some sectors, an attitude that is far from that spirit of mission which Jesus communicated to His followers when He said: "Go and proclaim that God is near, heal life. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves."

Finally, I am increasingly observing that, in some sectors, we have come to see modern society only as an opponent, the great adversary of the Church, which wants to destroy Christianity at its root. And almost unconsciously, you can come to making denunciation and condemnation a whole pastoral program.

Sometimes it's the most prominent attitude now. Recently the French bishop Claude Dagens, spokesman for the French Bishops' Conference, said in a study: "Sometimes, we make faith a counter-culture, and the Church, a counter-society." From that attitude, it's very difficult, almost impossible, to proclaim the God of Jesus as the best friend of every human being.

Therefore, the risk of an automatic reaction, very understandable but also very instinctive, which is not the best for acting with responsibility and clarity.

The temptation of restorationism

In these times of profound socio-cultural changes during which one probably ought to make far-reaching decisions, it seems that very important sectors of the Church have chosen restorationism instead. Going back to the past and securing things before they fall on us, with the risk of making Christianity a religion of the past, a religion increasingly anachronistic and less significant for coming generations.

Instead of walking with the men and women of today, working together based on the project of the Kingdom of God that we talked about yesterday, toward a more decent, more just, more fraternal, more healthy society, it seems that very important sector leaders lean instead towards a firm, rigid, and disciplined conservation of religious tradition. It's very understandable because those who have more responsibility, usually lean more towards these kinds of instinctive actions.

From here, in all sectors, not just among the leaders, but at the base too, a religious conservatism is infiltrating, almost without us realizing it, that was not known after the Council and I think it's far from the prophetic and creative spirit of Jesus. Strict compliance with norms is monitored; there's no concession whatsoever to creativity. It seems like everything is fixed forever and it would seem that the only thing to do in these times of such profound socio-cultural change, is to conserve and repeat the past. It's explainable but to me, simply, I find it difficult to recognize in all this Jesus' invitation to "put new wine into new wineskins."

Widespread passivity

For me, the most significant fact may be the third point, although this isn't talked about too much. The most pervasive feature of Christians who have not left the Church yet is, certainly, passivity. Evidently there are a very significant and very valuable -- I don't want to forget this -- number of Christians who live very committed lives in groups, communities, parishes, movements, marginal areas, educational projects, mission countries ... There is no doubt that there is an important minority, and that it will be more important and more significant yet in the future. But that doesn't stop us fom seeing that the majority attitude is passivity.

For centuries we have educated the mass of the faithful for submission, docility, silence, passivity ... Christianity is organized as a religion of authority, not as a religion of a call to all the people of God. And the structures that have been born over the centuries have not promoted the co-responsibility of the people of God.

In practice, Jesus' movement has been made into a religion in which the responsibility of the laity has largely been rendered void. And even after the Council, although the language has changed, we can say that still in many areas and environments they aren't needed to think or plan, let alone decide how the Church should function currently today.

It may be the main obstacle to promoting the transformation that Christianity urgently needs today. Millions and millions of faithful, a huge mass of people in submission to a hierarchy that leans towards the temptation to restorationism.

In this situation, it's hard to see how we can face the new times and open paths to the Kingdom of God, following in the footsteps of Jesus. Therefore, the pastoralists -- not so much among us, but in Europe, Canada, the USA -- are now asking a lot of questions. Is a transformation possible? And what transformation in these circumstances? Can Christianity find in itself the spiritual vigor, the spiritual strength needed to trigger the conversion to Jesus Christ? Is it possible to mobilize the forces within the Church today to follow Jesus more faithfully and more radically? How? At what price? Through what rubble, what crisis, how many people burned out along the way? There are many questions and it's not easy to have a clear answer.

2. Coming back to Jesus Christ

Is conversion possible?

In my opinion, the turnaround today's Christianity needs, the critical self-correction, is simply to return to Jesus Christ, i.e. to focus more truly and more faithfully on the person of Jesus Christ and His plan of the Kingdom of God. I think this conversion is the most urgent and most important thing that can happen in the Church in the coming years. Many things must be done in all fields -- liturgical, pastoral,... -- but nothing more crucial than this conversion.

John Paul II, in an admirable letter which he wrote at the beginning of 21st century says: "We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: 'I am with you!'"

This conversion is not an effort that is being asked only of the hierarchy, or that we require only of men and women religious, of theologians, of a very specific sector of the Church. It is a conversion to which all of us in the Church must feel called. I usually speak of a "sustained conversion" over many years, decades, a conversion that we have to start now, in the present generations, without waiting for anything else, and that we have to transmit as a disposition, a spirit to future generations.

After twenty centuries of Christianity, the heart of the Church needs purification and conversion and, at a time that unprecedented socio-cultural change is taking place, the Church needs an unprecedented conversion, a new heart to generate in a new way the unchanging faith in Jesus Christ, but in modern society this time.

Not only aggiornamento

Let me explain a little more what I mean. I'm not thinking only of an aggiornamento, although it's necessary, but of a radical return to Jesus Christ. As you know, it seems that John XXIII was the first to speak of aggiornamento, bringing ourselves up to date, adapting the Church to today's times, something of course that's absolutely necessary because, if the Church wants to fulfill its mission, it has to become incarnate in every era, in every culture, in every moment.

I'm talking about going back to the One who is the only source and origin of the Church, who alone justifies its presence in history and the world. I'm talking about letting Him, the God incarnate in Jesus, be the only God in the Church, Abba, the only friend of life and human beings. And only from this conversion will the true aggiornamento be possible.

Not only religious reform

I'm not just referring to religious reform, but to a conversion to the Spirit of Jesus Christ. When one sees Christianity lived out with all goodwill by many people though, it's not focused on following Jesus, but in the proper performance of a religion, when one observes that, in many communities, the project of the Kingdom of God is not the primary clear task, when compassion doesn't occupy the central place in the exercise of authority and in the work of us theologians, and when the poor, the little ones, the powerless, and the forgotten aren't first in the Christian communities ... it's clear that not only some religious reform is needed, but a true conversion to the Spirit that inspired Jesus' whole life.

In this society, it will be increasingly difficult to live only off of disciplined adherence to the institutional Church. If in future years, there isn't a climate of conversion to the Spirit of Jesus, I believe that Christianity is at risk of being diluted into increasingly decadent and more sectarian religious forms, more and more remote from the movement inspired and wanted by Jesus.

Not only changes

The urgent renewal that the Church needs today will not just come from some liturgical reforms that the specialists prepare for us, or some pastoral innovations, although they are necessary. We need to bring the foundational experience up to date. We need to return to the roots, go back to basics, to what Jesus lived and spread, because we ourselves are neither living nor spreading what Jesus lived and spread, for the most part. The Church has to take root in Jesus Christ as the only truth from which we are allowed to live and go into the future creatively. It's not enough just to bring order to the Church, or to introduce some reforms in the way the Church functions. I need to experience and breathe a different air in the church, a different climate, one of humble seeking, of joining forces, a relentless quest to reproduce and live out the essence of the gospel among the people today.

Is it possible? How can we do it? Where do we have to start? What can we say?

3. Some lines of action

I'm going to offer four lines, into which a lot of things fit that we can then continue to comment upon.

1. Introducing Jesus' truth into Christianity today

This seems to me to be the first thing. Taking steps towards greater levels of truth in our lives, our groups, our communities, our parishes, our diocesan churches and, of course, also in the central authorities of the Church. In this regard, I will develop two small points.

Putting forth the truth of Jesus

We have to dare to discern what is true and what is false in Christianity today. What is true and false in our churches and our curiae, in our celebrations and our pastoral activities, in our objectives and strategies ... and not close our eyes, not resign ourselves to living a Christianity without conversion. We can not live in a church where a desire for conversion isn't felt. Or passively allow the memory of Jesus to gradually fade among us, in our country.

How long will we be able to go on without making a collective examination of conscience in the Church at all levels? We started the 21st century without making an examination. Celebrating a very beautiful jubilee that has done much good, but without starting the century by asking ourselves "how are we?" and "where do we go?" Why isn't an honest, sincere review of our following of Jesus promoted in the Church?

Everyone says that a person is converted and renewed only when he recognizes his mistakes, his sins. Only then can he return to his most authentic truth. And how can this beloved Church, the Church of Jesus, take steps towards its conversion if we don't acknowledge the errors and sins among us? We don't have to be afraid of naming our sins; and it's not about blaming each other, often for each sector to justify our own mediocrity. It's a painful mistake to think that the Church is going convert to Jesus only by criticizing, disqualifying, and condemning each other. That's not how you progress towards conversion to the Gospel.

What we all need to do is recognize and bear the sin of the Church. We don't all have the same responsibility, but we are all complicit in some way, especially through our omission, our passivity, our silence and mediocrity. The sin of the Church is in all, in our hearts and structures, in our lives and our theologies, and every one of us is called to conversion.

Questioning false certainties

At the moment, putting truth in the Church is also putting into crisis the false certainties that prevent us from hearing the call to conversion. Today it is very difficult to hear a serious call to that effect; I'm very attentive and don't even hear the word; during Lent, conversion is spoken of, but it only lasts until Easter ... and then, see you next year!

It's dangerous to live with the awareness that we're the holy Church of Jesus without reviewing in the slightest if we're being faithful to Him or not, and to what extent. Our conviction that we have a unique mission, then not asking ourselves if we're really listening to the Spirit of Jesus to see where He's sending us today, is dangerous. And that unconscious security of believing that we are already proclaiming Jesus and His message -- without being a Church that hears the Word, as the great theologian Karl Rahner used to say -- seems dangerous to me. It's a mistake to think that God must now carry out His mission of salvation in the world by precisely following the path that we ourselves have drawn for Him, without checking whether it's tainted by our cowardice and mediocrity. And it's a mistake to claim to have the blessing of God, even to maintain and develop, often with good will, our own ecclesiastical interests.

Why are we so sure? Why do we so easily condemn sin in the world and are so blind to our own sin? Why is Jesus going to identify with our way, sometimes not so faithful, of living in His footsteps? Why would He confirm our inconsistencies and our deviations from the gospel? Why is Christ going to be at our service if we are not serving the Kingdom of God? Aren't we the blind wanting to lead the blind today?

2. Regaining the identity of Jesus' followers

I will also point out only two aspects here.

Our true identity

We must regain and safeguard our inalienable identity, which is to be followers of Jesus. And what is this specifically? In my opinion, it's to go, in the coming years, towards a new level of Christian life. To move, in the history of Christianity, to a new phase in which it would be a Christianity that's more inspired and motivated by Jesus and structured to serve His project of the Kingdom of God, a more humane, fraternal, blessed world...

If it ignores Jesus, the Church will exist ignoring itself. If it ignores Jesus, the Church will not know the most essential and vital part of its task, of its mission. If it doesn't know how to look at life, if it doesn't know how to look at people and the world with the compassion with which Jesus looked, the Church will be a blind Church, that thinks it sees everything in a supernatural and privileged light, but that inadvertently may be shutting itself from the One who is, as St. John says, "the True Light that enlightens" not only the Church, but "every one who comes into the world."

And if it doesn't listen to the voice of the Father, as Jesus did, if it doesn't hear the suffering of the people as He did, the Church will be a deaf church. It will believe that it hears God's truth about human beings like no one else does, but it will be a Church that can't communicate the Good News of God incarnate and revealed in Jesus.

A new relationship with Jesus

Regaining our identity as followers of Jesus means seeking a new relationship with Him. The conversion that is being asked of us today means, specifically, a new quality in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

A Church made up of Christians that relate to a poorly understood, vaguely grasped Jesus, One confessed only abstractly, a silent Jesus, from whom nothing special can be heard for today's world, a muffled Jesus, one who doesn't seduce, doesn't call, doesn't touch the heart ... is a church that runs the risk of extinction. A Church without Jesus Christ would be a Church that has come to its end.

We need a Church marked by the experience of Jesus, driven by believers who are consciously living based on Him and His project of the Kingdom of God. Christians who belong to Jesus, and, just because they are His, belong to the Church and are contributing humbly within it to make it more faithful to Him.

How we need Christians who, at all levels of the Church, introduce Jesus among us as the best, the most valuable, the most attractive, most loved one...! Jesus, our only Master and Lord!

And it doesn't matter where each person is and what responsibility they have because we are all encouraged to collaborate in a difficult but exciting, attractive task: the task of moving, in the history of Christianity, to a new phase, one that is more faithful to Jesus Christ. We can all contribute so that Jesus is experienced and felt more intensely and in a new way in the Church. All of us, wherever we are, can make the Church be a little more like Jesus, and its face more similar to His.

3. Towards a new image of Church

It's not easy to say what concrete steps we would have to take. Naturally this isn't the job of a theologian, of one person or another ... It will have to be a joining of forces. I will mention two aspects:

The critical importance of the Gospel story of Jesus

I think we have to regain the critical importance that a few small groups who gathered to hear the memory, the memory of Jesus contained in the Gospels, had at the birth of the Church, what was experienced in the midst of the Empire.

Today, as research into the early days of Christianity progresses, many things are beginning to become clear. We have always said that the great figure was St. Paul with his letters, but it turns out just about nobody understood his letters. The people, the Christians of the port of Corinth were illiterate, there were no scrolls or codices. Now that we have his letters printed in the New Testament, we read them, explain them, but the early Christians didn't. Saint Paul was influential, no doubt, but the truly influential one was Jesus, who was remembered in very small communities and groups. Remember that, in the Gospel of Matthew, this sentence appears on Jesus' lips: Wherever two or three -- not more -- are gathered in My name, there I am. That is the experience that was lived.

It has been calculated -- the data are unreliable -- that towards the end of the second century there were only about 25,000 Christians, scattered throughout the Empire in very small groups. The center was Jesus, remembered in the Gospels. And when the empire was crumbling and becoming corrupt, it was noted that there were some groups who could live life in another, more humane way, and Christianity emerged. As it could emerge in the midst of this society.

The Gospels are not textbooks that lay out an academic doctrine about Jesus. Nor are they some biographies written coldly to inform us in detail about the historical Jesus. What is collected primarily in the Gospels is the impact made by Jesus on the first people who were attracted by Him and answered His call. In the gospels we find the experience that the disciples lived through with Him, which marked their lives and guided them to following Him.

We should not forget that, in any epoch, the Gospels are a unique work for Christians. We can't put the Gospels lightly on par with all the other books of the Bible based on the fact that they are all the Word of God. That is true, but in the Gospels there is something that we can only find in them: the blessed memory of Jesus, as He was remembered with love and faith by His early followers. What a shame that even today there are Christians who only know of the gospels what they hear from the preachers and only have an idea of different fragments ... a miracle, a parable, Christmas, Holy Week ... and that in our small groups and communities we are not reviving our life around the Gospel account of Jesus!

The Gospels, precisely because they were written to generate new believers and new followers, are, above all, stories of conversion. And they should be heard, studied and meditated, in an attitude of conversion. The Gospels invite a process of change, of following Jesus, of identification with His project. And in this attitude of conversion, sustained every Sunday, the Gospels must be read, preached, discussed, meditated upon, rethought and kept as the best we have about Jesus. His Gospels kept in the heart of every believer and in the heart of every parish, of every Christian community.

I think these groups of Jesus are a starting point in order to create a different climate.

The ongoing genesis of the Church

I think that believers who really put themselves in living contact with the story of Jesus in the gospels, will be the ones who will know the experience of being born anew with Jesus to a new way of living their commitment to Him. For what do you learn from the gospels? Basically, you don't learn a doctrine; you learn a way of life, Jesus' way of life. In the gospels we learn a way to be in life, a way of inhabiting the world, a way of interpreting it, of treating it, a way of creating history by making it better.

The first thing you learn from Jesus is not doctrine, but His way of being, His way of loving, of trusting in the Father, of being concerned about human beings. And I believe that this effort to learn to think like Jesus, to feel as He did, to love life as He did, to live as He did, to sympathize with those who suffer as He did, to wait upon the Father as He did ...we have to stick it in the center of the Church, starting with sticking it in the center of the groups, the small Christian communities and the parishes.

That's the first thing we have to take care of. Then one can go on engendering a new church. At present, we can't devote ourselves to incidental, secondary things; we have to go to the essential.

We have to conceive of the Church as a living reality, which is in permanent genesis, being permanently engendered by the Jesus remembered in the gospels. We must not think that the Church is already done and now we have to adapt it to these times. The Church is the Body of Christ, which embodies Christ. This is why the Church in every age, in every moment and every country has to go on being engendered and being born of Jesus.

Therefore, our primary task is not to be faithful to an image of Church and a Christianity from the past, developed in other times, for other cultures. What should preoccupy us today is not repeating the past -- learning from the past, yes, but living in the present and being open to the future. What we should be concerned about is making possible today the birth of a Church and some communities that are able to faithfully reproduce the presence of Jesus Christ and able to update His project in today's society.

4. Rekindling hope

I am very aware that, at present, the Church doesn't just need criticism, not by a long shot; it doesn't just need truth, it also needs encouragement to rekindle its hope. But hope is not going to be born of speeches, of words, of stimulation. I think we need to build a new foundation that will enable hope. Realistic hope, from a Christian perspective, can be based only on the God incarnate in Jesus Christ.

We don't know when or how or in what ways God will act to further advance His reign. What we can't do is look at the future only from our calculations and forecasts. The Church can't arrange its destiny, it can't base its future on itself. Our hope is in God alone. Only God saves, and God will continue tirelessly, carrying out His plan of salvation in the world. God will continue, inside and outside the church, with us or without us, to make His plan of salvation come true. God does not look back, modern secularism does not create a crisis for God, and our mediocrity is not going to block His saving action. God is God and we must not forget it. The God of Jesus Christ is our greatest potential for hope.

What are we to do?

Prepare new times

I believe that hope is experienced and those who are now preparing new times experience it, not those who are like spectators who just lament, complain, cry, argue ... and don't contribute anything more. Only those who are trying to break new ground are the ones who will bring us hope.

All of us, albeit humbly, can go on, step by step, pushing the Church to be more like Jesus than it is today. We will have to invent recipes, but many recipes will burn. We will have to follow many wrong paths to discover which is the right path. A few months ago I read what a theologian from Paris said: "It's obvious that the Church needed a whole century to succeed in establishing itself and establishing the message and the Spirit of Jesus in modern society. A century ... if you think about it, it's nothing; it's been 50 years since the Council ..."

We will have to push the Church, we will have to invent recipes ... but above all we have to promote a different climate -- only in another climate will it be possible to live with greater hope. We need to experience the gospel in new ways. We are being called to mobilize ourselves, to reconsider everything from a new fidelity to Jesus. God is unfathomable, God is a big surprise. I'm convinced that great surprises are still awaiting for Christianity. Jesus still hasn't given the best. I won't see it, but I can sense it.

How can you prepare for this? How do you prepare for the future and have hope when there seems to be no future? There are no specific recipes, but there are ways to search, although we don't realize it. Let's open our eyes: there are very poor parishes, which are not the great cathedrals, which are on the periphery, where there is a new climate, where they do things and live out commitments that point to this new and more convincing style of following Jesus. And there are groups and movements that are bringing people towards a way of better human quality and more authentic evangelical quality.

There's a new way of perceiving the gospel; there's an ever more lively awareness of being followers of Jesus. I already know that initiating new ways of conversion demands higher levels of faith and love for Jesus from all of us. But there are ways that can continue to open in a germinal manner. Perhaps many of us will burn out along the road, but no matter. Jesus said that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will not be fruitful. We need people who burn out; their lives will have some small and humble fertility. Germinally prepare new ways.

Working for conversion and change

I think new atttitudes are needed. I will mention two.

First, I think we have to learn to live while changing -- not live by repeating, but changing. This means learning to say goodbye to what doesn't evangelize, to what doesn't open paths to the kingdom of God, in order to be more attentive to what is being born, to what we see opens the hearts of the men and women of today to the Good News of God. And, without realizing it, we are already dismissing forms of ministry and evangelization that were prepared for a form of Christianity that no longer exists. Certainly small steps are being taken toward a new faith. Learning to live while taking steps, not simply waiting for extinction, looking to see who's last so they'll turn off the light ...

Second, we have to learn, little by little, to shape the change. I know environments where it's possible to experience new languages to communicate the Good News of God. And I know environments where you can start talking with people who are more alienated. Today, it's very difficult to draw boundaries -- Who is inside? Who is out? Who believes? Who doesn't believe? I move among groups of "seekers" -- that's what we call them -- who say to me: "José Antonio, what I'm experiencing, is it faith?"

What is belief? People are very lost. We need to talk, we have to spread the little faith that each one has. There are parishes where a different way of living together is possible, and it's being done already -- a new acceptance, a new Christian friendship. We've said sublime things about Christian community, communion, theories ... but we need to be friends, to strengthen bonds of friendship in our parishes and communities.

There are places, environments, parishes, where it's possible to give new responsibilities to women. In reality, there are few things that women can't do today, only two: preside at the Eucharist and preside over the sacrament of Reconciliation. Almost everything else could be left in the responsible hands of women. If we don't do it, it's not because of canon law -- which allows it -- but because of our laziness, our insensitivity, our stupidity ...

I think now we have to devote much more time, much more prayer, a lot more listening to the gospel, much more attention and energy to listening to many calls, new charisms, new vocations, new ways to conversion. At first everything is fragile, everything is small; we have the good fortune to be able to sow without seeing the harvest. It is a joy, to sow and reap not. In the Gospel, there's only the parable of the sower, not the one we ourselves might like: the parable of the reaper ...

The Church has not bottomed out yet. We are still going to experience the vulnerable and fragile nature of the Church much more. And we will be able to share the lot of losers along with other forgotten sectors in this society, that are losers. In the Church we will be among the least; that is not a disgrace, but it can be a real grace. A church with little power, a fragile, vulnerable Church where people discover, more and more that there is sin. It's not a disgrace; it's walking more truthfully. We will be between a rock and a hard place. To look bad is not bad, it can irremediably lead us to the gospel and to Jesus Christ. Jesus proclaimed it, possibly while passing through Magdala, a small town where he met Mary -- the city was famous for preserves, for salted meat and fish. There was a lot of salt that was brought from the Black Sea and the surplus, that which was bad, was piled up in the streets, abandoned ... Jesus once said: Look at the salt. When it loses its flavor, the whole world tramples on it ...

Let's not defend ourselves a lot because, if the present world is often stomping on us, it's in part because it doesn't find in what we are offering as salt the flavor the world needs in order to believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ. I think the important thing is to keep walking as the Letter to the Hebrews says, with "eyes fixed on Jesus who is the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith."

About the author: José Antonio Pagola is a Roman Catholic priest. He studied theology at the Gregorian University (graduated 1962), sacred scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome (graduated 1965), and biblical sciences at the Jerusalem School of Biblical and Archeological Studies (graduated 1966). He has been professor of Christology in the Faculty of Theology of Northern Spain in Vitoria (Spain) and in the San Sebastián Seminary (Spain). The Spanish Episcopal Commision for the Doctrine of Faith has questioned his application of the historical-critical method for biblical exegesis in one of his recent books (Jesus. An Historical Approximation, Convivium Press, 2009). For more on the professional profile of this author, click here.

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