Opening Our Hearts to Receive the Holy Spirit

Living in the Communion of Divine Love

Jesus is the Vine, We are the Branches

Jesus Christ: Our Cornerstone

Invitation to the Schools of Missionary Discipleship

Jesus Invites Us To Share In The Good News

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings of the Holy Mass – Third Sunday of Easter)

“The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

“Gospel” is one of those words we use so often and frequently that its original meaning can get obscured. When Jesus comes onto the scene and begins his public ministry, He preaches the “gospel.” After death and resurrection, he sends forth the apostles to preach the “gospel.”

Later the “Gospel” will take written form in four different works which in turn take on the name “Gospel.” So what does the word “gospel” mean? It makes its way into English from the Greek “euangellion,” which means “good announcement” or “good news.”

The concept has roots in the Old Testament being associated with a royal announcement for example when Solomon became King after David’s death. The good news being the king has taken his throne.

The association with royalty and later messianic expectation and hope are combined as the term is used in the New Testament.

The “good news” is that God’s reign is at hand. God is King. Jesus announces the Kingdom and then establishes it in his passion, death and resurrection.

There, Jesus is manifest as the Lord of life.

There love conquers death.

There God’s mercy triumphs over sin.

There the poor are exalted, the powerful humbled.

There the “gospel” is proclaimed for all the world.

Announcing the “good news” is an essential part of the life. When something good happens in our families, we immediately have the impulse to share the “good news.”

A new baby is born. Up to a few years ago, we would immediately start making phone calls to let everyone in the family know. Nowadays, we text, post on Facebook, Tweet or any of the other social media venues. Why? Because the news is too good to handle alone. We need to share something that is so good so great.

We inherently know that the news will make other people lives happier or better or more hopeful. What’s more we are glad to share the good news because we want others to share the same joy, the same hope.

The Gospel account for today’s liturgy is full of the “good news.” The passage recalls the wonderful account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to Cleopas and his companion. They do not recognize the Risen Lord as he walks with them on their journey. However, something positive is happening inside them as he explains to them the reasons for all that has happened to Him.

The sorrow, grief, doubt and fear that they are experiencing at the death of Jesus are being healed by His Word. Later they will recall that their “hearts were on fire while he spoke to us on the road.”

After Jesus’ identity is realized in the “breaking of the bread,” the two disciples explode with joy (so to speak). The overwhelming exhilaration that comes with the awareness that Jesus has risen propels them to share the good news.

They rush back to Jerusalem from where they were traveling to find the Eleven and the other disciples. Now when they get there they are greeted with the “good news” that “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34) Jesus is alive. He has conquered death. God is king. The word has to “get out” and be shared.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead changes everything. Previous understandings are turned upside down. Death is no longer the end. Evil had sought to destroy Jesus but robbed of its power. This reality changes everything.

No longer do men and women need to live in fear. No longer do people need to be trapped in their sins. No longer do the poor have to live without hope. No longer do the sick have to fear death.

Jesus is Risen and everything is new. The disciples can not hold back. They need to announce and proclaim that in Christ Jesus, the Kingdom of God has been established and that no force or power of this world can stop it. They want everyone to know that they are invited and welcome to share in the life that Christ has won.

Jesus prepared them for the proclamation during the public ministry. Designating some of the disciples as “apostles” which means “one’s who are sent” points to the proclamation as a major component of the Kingdom.

It was not only the apostles who go out. We might recall that Jesus also sent out the seventy-two disciples during the public ministry. Proclaiming the “good news” of the Jesus’ resurrection and the Reign of God is something we are all called to share – for the announcement is truly “good” and we should share it with all.

After Pentecost, the apostles do go out from Jerusalem proclaiming Jesus’ death and resurrection. We hear one such proclamation in today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles.

Peter invites everyone to hear the good news: “You who are Jews, indeed all of you sting in Jerusalem. Let this be know to you, and listen to my words.” Here the humble fisherman from Galilee is found joyfully preaching and proclaiming – and inviting. And the core of the message is this: “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth, as you see and hear.” Jesus is Risen.

Saint Paul will eventually hear the “good news.” Although he rejects it at first through doubt, he comes to believe after encountering the Risen Lord. He, like the others, goes out to proclaim. Later reflecting on God’s plan and salvation accomplished through Jesus passion, death and resurrection, Paul will remind us of the importance of spreading this good news as he writes:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!”(Romans 10:13-15)

This week we continue to celebrate the “good news,” as, once again, we encounter the Risen Lord. We are urged to share the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

We are encouraged to share the peace which is His gift. And we are propelled to go forth and proclaim: “The Lord is Risen. Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia! Alleluia!”

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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