Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Evangelical Gospel

Reflections on the Readings
June 9, 2013 - Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C

The Evangelical Gospel

"For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel." - Paul (Galatians 1:11)

"You're the greatest gospel preacher I've ever heard," I told my daddy. That was many years ago and I'm glad I told him of my admiration of him before he passed. His robust and vibrant preaching was filled with the great depths of the message of Jesus Christ. He preached of his love for his Savior and invited his congregations through the years to love him too. For their edification he proclaimed Jesus Christ, and him crucified on a hill far away. But he didn't stop there. He knew what Paul knew and what the Church has proclaimed since the beginning. There is an empty tomb in Jerusalem!

The gospel should not be preached with an uncertain sound. It is not timidity that has marked the Church these many centuries. Men and woman from the beginning have given bold and faithful testimony of Jesus Christ risen and alive forevermore. The world always will need to hear that from us. They need to hear about the Jesus who fills our imagination, inspires our prayers, and ignites our parishes with a love for the world that is not of this world. 

Paul tells us that his gospel is not man's gospel. He didn't learn it from man. A man didn't teach it to him. It came to him through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Paul came to know Jesus Christ for himself because Jesus Christ claimed Paul for himself. That encounter with Jesus Christ seized him, and changed him, and then sent him into the world with the message that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And then Paul added, "Of whom I am chief." Paul met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. He was on his way to Damascus to continue his violent persecution of the Church of God. His goal was to destroy the Church and to wipe the memory of Jesus Christ from the earth. But thanks be to God, Jesus rescued Paul. There are many more to rescue.

We can have confidence in the gospel because it is not of human invention. It is anchored in the great story of Jesus Christ. We celebrate him not because he left the world a nice memory. He is not just a great figure of history. He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He is the one who gives new life and takes away the old life of sin and separation from God. We celebrate and proclaim Jesus Christ because he kicked the stone from over the mouth of his tomb. He was on that wonderful Sunday morning the Bright and Morning Star. His resurrection illuminated the world. 

That great resurrection morning has inspired art and music and the imagination of millions. It has picked up the lowliest of sinners and confronted the arrogance of kings. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, shines. He shines on the drunk laying in his own filth on skid row. He shines on the lonely and desperate heart of the prostitute. He shines on the friendless kid on the school playground. Jesus shines! He lives and shines through the witness of folks like you and me. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. A story about Jesus Christ. A story like no other story the world has known. It is that story we must tell, retell, and keep telling. A story of truth and life and hope. 

This message of forgiveness and new life in freedom from sin is the story entrusted to the Church. It is entrusted to you and to me. It is our story and if we don't tell it, who will? It is our story and if we don't live it, who will? It is our story and if we don't apply its meaning in service to our family and friends, who will? 

The evangelical gospel knows no boundaries. It does not cower to the faces of the people. Our confidence in the efficacy of the gospel is not diminished because of human ordinances. The power of the gospel does not suddenly erode because of laws and prohibitions against it. No my friend. The gospel is alive. It will always inspire us to feed the hungry, embrace the poor, visit the prisoner, and give water to the thirsty. With Paul, we are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation. The evangelical witness of the gospel covers the earth and its power defeats hatred, and sin, and comforts the weary and refreshes the heart of men and women everywhere. 

Some came to Galatia and preached a different gospel. It was a gospel that pleased and tickled the ears of those who heard it. But Paul defended the gospel he preached. He told the Galatians not to seek the favor of men or to delight in another gospel because there is no other gospel. Some were trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. And Paul responded with clarity and power. He said, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."

Strong words. Words we need to hear ourselves. There is not another gospel. There is only one gospel. And it is the great evangelical gospel of Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of God. (Galatians 1:3) May the gospel again grab us, and claim us, and renew us again and again. And then let us go into all the world and give it. Let us warm the hearts of those who will receive it. Let us give its message of hope and faith and forgiveness to everyone and anyone who is enslaved by sin. Let us in the power of the gospel rescue the perishing, care for the dying, and lift the hearts of people everywhere with the gospel of Christ. Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at:   Visit him at:



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