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What Is ‘The Gospel?’…

What Is ‘The Gospel?’…

1st Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Victor Feltes

God loves us despite our sins. Sin divides people from God and one another. So to forgive our sins, to heal our divisions, and to make us saints, God the Father sends his Eternal Son. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary, suffers, dies, and rises again to achieve our reconciliation. Through baptism into Christ and his Church we can be saved from sin and death, similar to the story of Noah whose family is saved through the Flood inside of the ark. As God the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert so he guides his Church, forming saints in Christ’s likeness.

This is an expression of what today we call the gospel. God loves us and wants to deliver us from sin and death and to bless us in his Church through Christ’s saving sacrifice. This is our Faith. This is the Good News both you and I are called to share with others. Who will you invite to receive the gifts of God you have known and enjoyed? If you are open to it, the Holy Spirit will arrange opportunities for you to do so.

Today we hear St. Mark recount how “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment! The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the gospel!’” This is how Jesus preached at the beginning of his public ministry years before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We have an idea of what “the gospel” means now, but what was “the gospel of God” that Jesus called people to believe in before his saving sacrifice had happened?

All of the New Testament writers wrote in Greek. The word our English bibles translate as “gospel” is the Greek word “euangelion” (εὐαγγέλιον). Euangelion is a compound word which combines eu which means “good” and angelia meaning “announcement.” In the ancient Greco-Roman world, the news of a new ruler coming to power or of some major military victory were proclaimed as euangelion. In that cultural setting, Jesus proclaims the great announcement that God’s Kingdom is near.

A divine victory was imminent. Time had come for fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises. The will of God would soon be done more fully on earth as it’s done in heaven. Jesus says, “This is the time of fulfillment! The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the gospel!” Jesus is calling his hearers to believe that things can get better.

Pessimists imagine this world is forever getting worse. But if that were true, if things were always becoming worse and worse what good would there remain for any of us to see now? How could any of us still be left alive? Things can get worse or they can get better. In days past, at the beginning of his public ministry, and now, at the start of this season of Lent, Jesus calls for repentance and faith in the gospel. He calls us to believe that we can become more perfectly like himself; to believe this world around us, as a result of grace and cooperation with Christ, can be more fully God’s Kingdom come.

When he came to his hometown, the people of Nazareth were unwilling to believe in Jesus and what he preached. They refused to believe that Jesus could change their lives and change their world. “So,” St. Mark records, Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Peoples’ trust and openness was a factor in how much they could receive from Christ.

What could Jesus do in us and in our world beginning in this Lent? Jesus calls you to “repent and believe in the gospel!

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