Just yesterday, on Pentecost Sunday, the Easter season finally reached its climactic conclusion!
The Holy Spirit has descended upon the disciples, inaugurating the age of the Church. And Christ’s Great Commission to us to make known the Good News to all the nations (Mt 28:19-20) still echoes in our ears as the boldness of the Spirit calls us forth on mission.
In the spirit of this fresh reminder of our evangelistic call, I’d like to take the opportunity to revisit that essential question:
What is the Good News?
What is this Gospel that we are called to make known to all the world? What is the news that has the power to turn our lives upside down?
Perhaps, in light of just having experienced Holy Triduum and the Easter Season, this may seem a bit of a redundant question. Through the lessons of the liturgical season, we should be equipped with the answer already. Christ has died, taking on the sins of all humanity. Christ has risen and conquered death. And Christ will come again in glory. We have just heard this story; we know the formula. But try telling this three-point Gospel to a stranger on the street with no context or background, and you will probably be met with blank stares.
What does it really mean? What makes it more than a mere historical fact? What makes it so much better than all the many other things people can and do choose over it?
In order to answer these questions, we must first face the underlying reality to which the Good News is a response; we must know the disease before the cure. We must be willing to no longer live in denial, but rather to have our eyes and hearts opened to the dilemma in which we find ourselves.
Because the problem is that, even by simply asking what makes the Good News better than the other options on the market, we betray a certain assumption – the assumption that we are our own ultimate arbiters. We can choose one thing we prefer over another. Our lives are our own, to do with what we feel like. And that is precisely what gets us into trouble. As C. S. Lewis puts it:
“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
“The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us; invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
So, then, in order for our “machine” to work, in order to satisfy our restless search for meaning and happiness, in order to be at peace, there is really only one answer: we must live according to the way God has made us. The problem is – we aren’t able to (Rom 7:15-25). We may be willing, but as we try to put it into practice, we find ourselves constantly failing not only to live perfectly, but even just to keep up living repentantly.
And now, we can speak of the cure. We were designed to live a certain way, but we were also given free will, and we as a human species chose to rebel. In rebelling, we have rendered ourselves weak and unable to repent, unable to return to living by that only way in which we were designed to live.
There was only one thing that could save us – a perfect Being repenting on our behalf, and bringing us along with Him to give us the power to repent as well.
And that is what we find in Christ. Being God, He is perfect, able to live in perfection as He calls us to live (Mt 5:48). Taking on our human nature, He can repent and make our nature capable of repenting as He does so. He puts our sin and fallenness to death on the cross – and, by rising from the dead, He raises our human nature along with Him, both restoring it, and glorifying it.
So then, to put it simply, why is the Good News so good? I’ll try and summarize it in three points (though of course there is so much more to it!):
- We are saved from the hopeless pursuit of a fulfilling, happy, and meaningful life. Through Christ, who as God Himself came to us and reconciled us to Himself, we have such close access to God that we can truly have a personal relationship with Him. And it’s in that relationship that we really can have peace, we really can have true joy. Our restless hearts can finally rest in Him.
- We are saved from the hopelessness of not being able to live that fulfilling life, the life we were designed to live, through Christ – who invites us to share in His perfect life, so that He can help us live that life too! (In Catholic theology, this is called the process of Sanctification; the Church Fathers even called it Divinization.)
- We are grown in a new life that doesn’t die! We can no longer fear death, because Christ has conquered it by rising from the dead. And that new life is more glorious, powerful, and beautiful than we could ever comprehend.
This is by no means a complete explanation. I don’t think a complete explanation could fit in an entire book, much less in a simple blog post. But my hope is that it gets us all moving in the right direction, as we once again receive the call to live, grow in, and preach the Gospel that is our salvation.
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- S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2007), p. 49.