For the many years that Deacon Joe and I have been presiding at the Sunday Radio Mass, I send him to the lectern, the reading stand, to proclaim the Gospel passage for the day by placing my hands on his shoulders and saying, “Joe, may the Spirit of God lead you as you announce to us the Good News of Jesus”.
Like most things that we do and say routinely, I haven’t questioned that ritual; I just know that it is truthful and that Joe accepts the blessing with sincerity and deep faith. I know that his prayer is that all his hearers, present here in the hospital chapel and wherever else throughout the world they may be, will open their minds and hearts as eagerly as they can to welcome and then to ponder what they have heard.
But lately I’ve been wondering if there are persons here or out there who actually want and expect that something will be said that will give them the light, the assurance, the peace that they crave and have not yet found. That’s what “good news” means! It’s the words that “command” our poverty — in whatever way we are poor — to leave us and then to lift us to new heights of joy!
That welcoming of the Good News is like the experience of a person condemned to death awaiting the court’s decision on an appeal — and living to hear that the death sentence has been overturned!
You know what that’s like from your own life: your missing child found alive and uninjured, the diagnosis that you are cancer-free, that warm letter sent by a person you’ve been estranged from for years, and so on.
As Christians we believe that not only Jesus’ encouraging words, but his very life — especially his death and resurrection — is the Good News that changes our lives for the better always. The ultimate cause of all our worries and fears and sadness and depression is our inescapable awareness that we are on our way to death — every one of us without exception. And the Good News is that on the other side of death is happy life such as no human being has ever experienced it in this earthly existence!
Again, that’s the Good News that Jesus brings and the Good News that he is!
No, we can’t prove it in any empirical or scientific way; that’s why we speak of it as a matter of faith. We choose to believe it especially on the testimony of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.
The recent storms and hurricanes and earthquakes have given us here in the northeastern United States of America new reason to be grateful for our material blessings. We know ourselves, maybe more clearly than ever before, to be rich. But that’s why we can also be partly or totally deaf or indifferent to the Gospel as Good News. “Sitting pretty” as we are, who needs “Good News”?
Because the rich die also. Because the richest among us can be at the same time the poorest with regard to relationships and love and beauty that alone can bring joy to their hearts.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we have our hands on each other’s shoulders and we are saying, “May the Spirit lead you to hear with enthusiasm and to pass on the Good News of Jesus!”