Church statistics in the western world are merciless. The number of practising Christians is falling. The numbers of students in diocesan seminaries are insignificant and it isn’t difficult to conclude that young people are largely absent in the Church of today. Our world is wounded by the pandemic, full of anxiety from war, and uncertain about tomorrow. And yet it doesn’t seem to turn to God, or at least to the God of Jesus Christ, or to the Church that systemically loses its authority and is continuously shaken by new scandals. All of this should stimulate reflection and… a change in the thought process regarding Church and evangelisation.
On 7 December 1990, when John Paul II signed his encyclical announcing the “new springtime” of the Gospel, a time prepared by God, the world was different. There seemed to be more enthusiasm and hope for change. And even back then, Karol Wojtyla was writing: “If we look at today’s world, we are struck by many negative factors that can lead to pessimism. But this feeling is unjustified: we have faith in God our Father and Lord, in his goodness and mercy. As the third millennium of the redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs” (Redemptoris Missio, 86).
And this springtime was already being announced at the end of the last century? For some, this period seems in the past, for others the season is yet to arrive and the cold and ruthless winter is still raging… Yet, at the very foundation, God is the Lord of history, which is the history of salvation. He is the One that guides His Church: He opens and closes, knocks down and rebuilds (cfr. Jer 31:28).
Undoubtedly, an epoch is drawing to a close before our eyes. A time of transition is always characterised by confusion, contradictions and polarisation but it is clear that the NEW is arriving. The perfume of Spring is already in the air!
Like John the Baptist, we want to be sensitive to this particular aroma in order to be even more who we are meant to be for the Church and the world: a voice shouting and a koinonia of friends. Spring is arriving and the world and the Church needs John the Baptist’s to point out its first signs. For this reason, we need adopt a way to observe that doesn’t just consider “the world of today” superficially, but where we gaze prophetically in a way that doesn’t let us fall into the temptation of pessimism.
What do we need to do? Invoke the spirit of the prophet Elijah, who, in the smallest of clouds saw the promise of torrential rain which would end the period of drought (cfr. 1 Kings 18:41-44). Walking in the power of the spirit of Elijah, John the Baptist is capable of seeing God’s presence and action and point towards Jesus!
It is necessary to convert ourselves to the spirit of Elijah in order to recognise that the Presence of God is stronger than any evil or brokenness in the world, our life, our Church, or our community. Behind the lamenting and negative chat isn’t so much a “realistic vision of the situation”, but a spirit of discouragement and closure to the promise of Jesus: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).
It is necessary to experience the welcome, normality, and warmth of friendship. Many people suffer from loss and loneliness. Everyone needs to experience the testimony of Jesus, who lives, frees and is always on the side of humanity. We have a lot to offer!
There is a huge need for places of welcome, where people can breathe in an atmosphere of faith, and where everyone has the possibility of opening their heart to Jesus. Is this not what the Lord called our Community to do 44 years ago? The house of prayer, the familial community, and the Oasis are all signs of the new springtime of the Gospel. Let’s ask the Lord for eyes to see that, to never doubt it, and to live our vocation as Koinonia John the Baptist with trust and intensity.