The angel’s announcement at the birth of Jesus let all who heard it know God had fulfilled His promise: He had become one of us in “all things but sin” to set us free from the tyranny of sin. This is Good News of great joy! This angelic announcement was given to a world not unlike our own, riven with strife, political difficulty, senseless violence, tears and hardship, especially for those on the margins — the poor, the sick and those of low status in Roman society. And it was to these — the poor shepherds — that this announcement of Good News was first given.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. … Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:18-21).
As He begins His public ministry, Jesus proclaims that the Good News first foretold by the prophet Isaiah to the people is now fulfilled in their hearing: He is here to offer liberty to captives, glad tidings to the poor and to bring sight to the blind. Who reacted with joy? The captives, those whom Jesus healed and the poor whom we see Jesus encounter throughout the Gospels, embraced Jesus with great joy. Yet not all reacted with joy — the leaders of the people responsible for governing and those responsible for leading them closer to God often reacted with hostility. What is our reaction to this Good News? Do we see that it is Good News? Are we ready to encounter Christ and look more deeply at what this Good News means for our lives — how can we be “set free?” Are we ready to sell all for this “priceless pearl” and bring others to encounter Christ and also be set free?
“The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.”
Pope Francis reminds the world of the Good News as he begins his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium:” “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (EG, 1). This is Good News! For who? For everyone. God heals wounds, fills empty hearts, provides purpose and gives each of us the grace to become that which He called us to be from the beginning. I have seen this repeatedly in my work with those entering the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. This is Good News for everyone: those who are wounded, suffering from addiction, lonely, insecure, purposeless or seeking love. In the silence of our hearts, when we find ourselves alone with God, we realize our complete weakness and how much we need Christ and this Good News! Come Lord Jesus and set us free.
How do we unwrap the Good News?
The joy and peace of Christ should be tangible wherever the Good News is shared and lived. So as we look around our parishes and communities, we can ask what we see and compare the scene to what Francis describes in the early Church:
“In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the first Christians ‘ate their food with glad and generous hearts’ (2:46). Wherever the disciples went, ‘there was great joy’ (8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be ‘filled with joy’ (13:52). The newly baptized eunuch ‘went on his way rejoicing’ (8:39), while Paul’s jailer ‘and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God’ (16:34). Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?”(EG, 5)
And why was there such joy? The Good News brings great joy! God has become one of us, Emmanuel, God with us. God has come among us: We have a Savior who knows us so completely and loves us absolutely so that we can always trust in His merciful love. He will always come to us when we call, and in that encounter He changes our lives for the better. Good News yesterday, today and forever. May we unwrap this Good News in our hearts and joyfully announce it anew to our communities and the world.
--Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
Deacon Phil Lawson is the Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington. He holds degrees from Madonna College/Ave Maria University (MTS), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (B.A. Communication), and post graduate continuing education studies in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Certificate in Youth Ministry, and is a permanent deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. If you would like to contact him, his email is email@example.com