“Among young priests, there is a whole swarming with long cassocks and censers, in their sermons I more often hear them speaking of dogmas and precepts than Gospel and Jesus. How on earth is this enclosing themselves in sacristies happening, so paradoxical in the very moment when a “new evangelization” is supposed to be launched?”
Yours is a question of one who believes that Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). The “world” for John is the structure of sin that enslaves all those who did not believe “in God’s love for us” (1 John 2:16; 4:16). Unfortunately, many Christians do not believe in love. They prefer, like do all religions, to search for God by means of rites, prohibitions and precepts. But “God is love”; and, “in this is love: not that we have loved God but that He loved us… We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:8.10.19). In the Gospel, it is not human beings who search for God but God who looks for them, because He loves them.
Jesus’ only command is: “Love one another as I have loved you.” And He explains: “As the Father loves Me, so I have loved you”; and He says of us to the Father: “You love them as You love Me” (John 13:34; 15:9; 17:23). What a staggering statement! When, living out love’s freedom, we are one thing among ourselves, with Him and with the Father, only then the world will believe in the Son sent by the Father in order to save all people (John 17:13). Those who ignore this love, exchange the Gospel with the law. They mistake the children’s freedom with obligations and rites meant to placate a hostile god: they live as slaves like the elder brother of the “parable of the merciful father” (Luke 15:25-32).
Paul, nowadays, would reproach us as he did with the Christians of Colossi: we are pagans, full of “precepts…, prescriptions and human doctrines! These have, indeed, an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotions and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value, serving only to indulge the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23; cf. Mark 7:1-13). “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law: you have fallen away from grace.” “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!... But you, brethren, were called to freedom, in order to be, through love, at the service of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself’” (Galatians 5:4.12-15).
If it is thus, why is it that what the reader denounces does happen? It is because, from Adam onwards, we believe more the serpent than God! More than in His love, we place our safety in cults and cultures, in liturgies and sacrifices. But our “incense is an abomination” for the Lord (Isaiah 1:13-21). It is easy for the Christian to forget the Gospel and go back to be a slave of the law. Also and above all, nowadays is a time of changes. Those who fear, instead of cultivate the basics, look for exterior signs that may warranty them to have god in their pocket. But this is a dead idol that gives death. Instead of “going about in long robes,” it is better to look at the widow (Mark 12:38-44). It was the Council of Jerusalem that put the foundation: it is our faith in Jesus and in His love that saves us. Whatever is built outside this foundation will collapse on top of us. We need a Second Council of Jerusalem. The first step was from Judaism to Christianity; now we must go back, from a close-in-itself Catholicism to a little bit of genuine Christianity, open to everyone and all.
We complain that the world doesn’t understand us. If only, instead of building a ghetto with fences of traditions and beliefs, noble as they may be, we would start to love, the world would understand us. In fact, the Gospel gives the freedom and salvation every person longs for. The only condition is that we may testify to Jesus and not to our fears, hidden in cassocks or smoked by incense. The new evangelization is really nothing new: it means taking seriously and living out the only Gospel of salvation. There is no other.