Proclaiming the Good News
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)

Doug McManaman
Reproduced with Permission

I heard a story of two brothers in Wales who went to the seminary together, both studying for the priesthood. The two of them were ordained together, but the one brother eventually left the priesthood. He became a complete atheist and there was nothing the other brother could do about it. Years later, the atheist brother suffered a brain aneurysm. He was in the hospital, in a coma, and he was not going to live. The brother who remained faithful to his priesthood was there next to the bed, praying the rosary. The graces of the anointing of the Sick must have gone to work, something was happening while he was in a coma, because at one point the dying brother sat up in bed, eyes wide open, turned to his brother and said: "It's all about Christ! Go and tell the whole world!" Then he lay back down and died.

Those were his last words. He had the opportunity to say one last thing, to leave a final testament to the world. He could have said anything. He said what he finally came to learn, while deep in a coma: "It's all about Christ! Go and tell the whole world!"

Christ himself commissions us to proclaim the good news. Last weekend was World Missions Sunday, and Pope Benedict XVI reminds as that the Church is still and will always be a missionary Church. All of us are called to be missionaries, to proclaim Christ, to proclaim his good news. But what is the good news?

The very word gospel means 'good news'. The Greek word for gospel is evangelion, which means extraordinarily good news, and it was used in the Greek world rarely, only when there was extraordinarily good news to report, such as the birth of a king, or a military victory.

Well, the good news of the gospel is just that: the birth of a king, and the good news of his victory over sin and death. He rose from the dead. Death did not have the final word over his life, and neither will it have the final word over our life, if we live our life in him and die in him. His life is a life that is completely ordered towards the Father; for it was a holy life, and perfectly so.

Without Christ, we are selfish. Without Christ, we think of ourselves first. Without Christ, we do everything ultimately for the sake of ourselves. Charity is not possible without Christ. Genuine love of others is not possible without him. Only sin is possible.

The good news is that he was born among us, the King of Creation, and he died our death in order to inject it with his own divine life. Moreover, he gives us his very flesh and blood in the Eucharist, to feed us, so that we might live in him and he might live in us.

With the life of Christ within us, love of others is now a possibility. Love of God is now a possibility. Holiness is now a possibility. And if we live a life that is holy, we will live in perfect union with God in heaven for all eternity. And it will be an eternal life of unimaginable joy. But we have to prepare for that life. We have to make ourselves ready to receive that life, and we do that by devoting ourselves completely to holiness, to a life of charity, a life of genuine love of God.

In order to live a life of charity, we have to learn to die to the self. And it takes a lifetime to do that. Too often we love other human beings for what they do for us, and we are not even aware of it.

But charity loves others for God's sake. It loves the other because it knows that the other belongs to God, has been created by God, and because you love God, you choose to love this person. It has nothing to do with loving him or her because he or she makes you feel good. You love this person because he or she belongs to God, has been created by God, has been redeemed by Christ, and you just want to channel that love of Christ to this person. If you are indifferent to God, you are not going to love others for His sake, just your own.

As many of you already know, as a Deacon I minister to those who suffer from mental illness, so I spend a lot of time in hospitals. And I have spent a lot of time in hospitals since the time my mother broke her hip back and eventually died. I have a great love of the nursing profession. But I have to say that there isn't a great deal of joy in hospitals, especially psychiatric hospitals. There isn't a great deal of joy in the world, in fact.

There are two kinds of joy: natural joy, and supernatural joy. Natural joy is what I feel when life is good, when things are going my way and I have everything I need. But supernatural joy is a joy that the world cannot give, but only Christ can give. It is the joy that comes from God Himself, because God is Joy Itself. He does not have joy; He is Pure Joy without limits. Joy is the fruit of charity, which is that love of God for God's sake, not our sake.

Mother Theresa always spoke of the importance of smiling. To smile is to express joy. But once again, there's not a whole lot of joy in the world, and not a whole lot of smiling. People, for the most part, smile when they feel good inside.

But supernatural charity begets supernatural joy, and supernatural joy is visible in a person's face, a face that smiles at another not because the other makes me feel good, but rather because it delights in the other, knowing that the other is loved by God, belongs to God, and has been redeemed by Christ.

And every one of us lives in circumstances that give us the opportunity to love others with supernatural charity, to smile at others and rejoice in them for God's sake, and in doing so channel that divine love to them. That's what it means to proclaim the good news. It does not mean knocking on someone's door and giving him literature, it does not mean hounding this or that person because they don't go to Church. It means filling oneself up with the divine love and channelling it to them. If you are a nurse, for example, every day is an opportunity to do just that. Consider that for a moment, every day nurses have to deal with patients that they will never see again. And nurses have to deal with difficult patients. All the good they do will leave with the patient. To care for patients well requires great charity, it requires divine grace. Without it, patients become a monumental pain. And that's when the environment becomes joyless. Or consider teachers. Same thing. Every day is an opportunity to love those in the classroom for their sake, not for our own sake. But how difficult that is to do continually. How easy when we are filled with divine grace and supernatural charity.

But that's what life in Christ is about. This life is about love. Eternity is about love. And our greatest sorrow in store for us when we die and are lucky enough to have made it to purgatory, our greatest sorrow will be that we didn't love enough. We will see all the opportunity that we had, and we are going to see all the good that could have spread throughout history, like a chain reaction, had we loved in those little ways and in those little things, those little opportunities that come to us all throughout an ordinary day, but neglected because we were too preoccupied with our own need to feel good. According to St. Catherine of Genoa, the great 16th century mystic of purgatory, there is no pain on earth that can compare to that pain.

Christ calls us to proclaim his good news, but we have to be filled with it. We have to have that good news written on our faces. We have to be given sight. We have to see that life here is short, it is passing away, and our brief life here is about bringing life and light to others. But we cannot do that unless we are on fire with the love of Christ, unless our life is a flame that burns with the fire of Christ's supernatural charity and the joy that it begets.

In the gospel, Christ asked the blind man Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" What a question! Wasn't it obvious to Jesus? The man left his cloak on the ground and ran towards Jesus. He was completely naked, and he was blind. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted. But he wanted Bartimaeus to say it, to stand before him naked and ask for it. He did, and Christ said: "Go your way; your faith has saved you."

All we have to do is ask. But we have to ask. Christ will not act unless we ask. We have to pray to be given sight, to see the shortness and vanity of this life, we have to ask to be given the eyes to see the other as one who belongs to Christ first and foremost, and we have to ask to be given the love, the supernatural charity, with which to love that person. If we ask, we will receive, and our lives will never be the same. We will be filled with the joy of the good news of Christ's resurrection. Amen.