The Beginning of GOOD NEWS

 GOOD NEWS! We all want to hear Good News! It is so easy to pick up a newspaper, or look on the internet, and be inundated with bad news. The AirAsian plane crash, two police officers ambushed in NY, the police shooting unarmed black men, and the list can go on. Bad news is easy to come by. Today, however, we hear the first Gospel of the new year beginning with the words “The GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ.” It’s interesting that this is the way the Evangelist Mark, the apostle who wrote the first Gospel account, chose to start his story about Jesus. The beginning of GOOD NEWS!

As we start a new year, we all want to begin with good news! Some of us made New Year’s resolutions so that we could get off to a good start. Maybe some of us began the New Year by reflecting on the past year, and thanking God that the bad is now gone and praying that the new year will be a lot better.

With uncertainty in the world all around us, it’s nice to come to Church and hear the first
Sunday Gospel reading of the New Year tell us, “The beginning of the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ!”

We’re still in the midst of the Christmas season, today being the 10th day of Christmas, and thus we continue in its spirit of joy and wonder right up until the next major feast of the Church, which occurs this Tuesday, January 6, when we celebrate Epiphany. And Epiphany, like Christmas, emphasizes in a special way the beginning of this GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ.

What’s different about the good news of Christmas and that of Epiphany? Well, Jesus is no longer a baby child. There’s no longer the promise of a Savior. Now his quiet years in Nazareth as a humble carpenter are over. Epiphany celebrates the baptism of our Lord and inaugurates Jesus’ adult public ministry. Now Christ is ready to begin teaching, preaching and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is at hand! Now He’s ready to show the power of this new kingdom through his miracles and wondrous signs. Now He’s ready to preach hope to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, and comfort to the brokenhearted. Now He’s ready to confront the devil head on by healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out demons and even raising the dead. In other words, with Epiphany, Jesus now brings divine light to those of us living in darkness and concretely proclaims and incarnates His Good News to the world!

The Good News of Jesus not only gives us a vision of a new life, but concretely shows us how to live within the Kingdom of God here and now. This world, with all its uncertainty, darkness, temptations, and evil is not the only option and reality we face. The Good News that Christ promises is nothing less than a new life – a life where Jesus walks with us, lives in us, and guides us along a refreshingly new, divine path. Greed will tempt others, but Jesus shows us how to live in love and charity. Lust will try to control us, but Jesus shows us how to live in purity and holiness. Power may delude others, but Jesus shows us how to live with simplicity, contentment and humility. While hatred and hardheartedness try to lead us astray, Jesus shows us how to live with mercy and forgiveness and reconciliation. Fear is something that threatens the world, but our Lord shows us that with Him, we have nothing ever to fear!

The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ is nothing less than a new way of living in this world around us – choosing to live under God’s reign!

It sounds like a great way to begin our new year – living under the Good News of God’s Kingdom! The challenge that each of us have to figure out, however, is HOW can we avoid the temptations of the world, and live daily this new life in Christ? How do we make this year a year in which we truly taste God’s kingdom each and every day?

The central piece of advice for living in God’s Kingdom comes from today’s Gospel reading. After St. Mark proclaims the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, he then goes on to talk about repentance! Repentance means turning back to God. Repentance means looking at the direction of our lives and realizing when we are going in the wrong direction. To live in the Kingdom of God, we must admit where we have failed to walk according to God’s commandments and make a radical change of heart.

Surely all of us have some areas in our lives where we have fallen short of imitating Jesus in our lives. Therefore, we must repent! We need to acknowledge and confess where we have sinned, and return back to God’s ways. Repentance is the essential first step leading into the Kingdom of Heaven! And because repentance is open to all people, it means that there is always hope for every person, no matter who they are or no matter what they’ve done. There is always hope for every person to enter into this new life of good news in God’s Kingdom!

Years ago, there was an ecumenical clergy conference where the question was posed: “Is there anything unique about Christianity?” Interestingly enough, before anyone could answer, a Rabbi raised his hand and responded:  “The unique thing about Christianity is that it never gives up on anyone; it never lets anyone go. It always helps a person begin again. There is always the possibility of a new beginning. This is the Good News they proclaim.”

As all of us begin another new year, may we each decide that this year we will truly try to live in the joy and wonder of our Lord’s Good News. We have a choice to make, and we have a path to choose. If we want to experience the Good News that Christ offers to the world, we can begin by repenting – by turning away from our ego-centric and worldly ways and turning towards a Christ-centered life.

 A Blessed and Happy New Year to all!

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