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October 17, 1997     The Message
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October 17, 1997

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8 The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana October 17, J \\; What exactly is a Gospel? By FATHER EUGENE LAVERDIERE, SSS Catholic News Service A Gospel is more than a piece of writing. Asked what a Gospel is, we immediately think of the New Testament's four Gospels. But each of these Gospels is different from the others. Look how they begin. Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus. After an introductory line about the beginning of the Gospel, Mark starts with the mission of John the Baptist. After a little preface, Luke starts with annuncia- tion stories telling about the conception of John the Bap- tist and Jesus. m John starts with a hymn about the Word of God. It is hard to imagine that four pieces of writing, all called Gospels, could begin so differently. Looking at the contents, we can say that every Gospel is "about" Jesus and his disciples, and every Gospel ends with the passion and resurrection of Jesus. But right away we sense there is more. A Gospel is more than a piece of writing "about" Jesus. Right from the beginning we sense that a Gospel should be read aloud, in public, to a community of Christians, as we do in the Liturgy of the Word during the Mass. Try reading the first line of Mark's Gospel, first silent- ly by yourself, then aloud to someone: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!" Reading it silently, you recognize that the first line is a title for the Gospel. Reading it aloud, you sense that it is also an announcement, a proclamation. To appreciate what a Gospel is, we have to realize it is meant to be read orally. Every Gospel is in the form of a story. Stories should be told, not just read. The first line of Mark's Gospel introduces the word "gospel" not as a piece of writing but as a message con- cerning Jesus Christ. The next time we find the word "gospel" is in a summary of Jesus' life, mission and ministry describing his message in Galilee (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus proclaimed "the gospel of God." The word "gospel" describes what Jesus did in Galilee. Yes, a Gospel is much more than a piece of writing. The word "gospel" means good news. A Gospel should be told as good news. Look, in the Gospel of Luke, how Jesus announced the good news in the synagogue of Nazareth. Every- one there knew him. They had watched him grow up. When they handed Jesus the scroll of Isaiah, he unrolled it and read a special passage: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to "To appreciate what a Gospel is, we have to real- ize it is meant to be read orally," says Blessed Sacrament Father Eugene LaVerdiere. "We stand in the place of Jesus, reading, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.' People should sense the truth of that statement in our reading. m CNS photo by Franke Methe Many people have a few favorite Gospel passages they return to again and again. One of my own favorites is in the very first chapter of John's Gospel: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" 0ohn 1:14). That phrase climaxes the fourth Gospel's prologue, a hymn to the eternal Word of God. In becoming flesh, the mysterious Word m which is beyond our grasp, incomprehensible, intangible  comes within our reach. His flesh, like ours, is visible, knowable, lovable. It is the flesh of the human Jesus, and in contemplating his humanity we can reach out and touch eternity. This speaks to me of God's wonderful desire to be known and loved by time-bound, earth-bound people like me. Another of my favorite Gospel stories reminds me that in getting to know Jesus of Nazareth we get to know what God is like. The better I know the Jesus of the Gospels, the better I know God. The passage is in Mark's Gospel (5:21-43). We see Jesus responding to the plea of a distraught synagogue official whose daughter is dying, As Jesus' makes his way toward the man's house, a woman in the crowd reaches out and surreptitiously touches Jesus' cloak. She, too, is desperate, drained of strength and hope by a maddeningly persistent flow of blood. When she touches him, he stops and demands that she make herself known. When she summons up the courage to do so, he declares her cured. Jesus' insistence with her is significant. It tells us that he is not an impersonal object, a sort of "rabbit's foot." Jesus is a person to know and trust. He wants people to know him, to establish an interpersonal relationship with him. It is not enough to know about him. I must know him and be known by him. When Jesus finally reaches the synagogue official's house, the little girl has died. But even in the face of this awful finality, her father must go on trusting. His trust is rewarded when Jesus raises her from the sleep of death. What is especially revealing is Jesus' concern for her. In the general excitement she is forgotten -- by all but Jesus. She is hungry. He directs her parents to give the poor child something to eat. What an insight into his sensitivity, his -- and his Father's m warm concern for people. Another of my favorite Gospel passages greatness is, a reminder always to keep my straight regarding recognition or success. When the disciples were squabbling among them was the greatest, Jesus short: "Whoever wants to be great among you servant .... For the Son of Man did served but to serve and to give his life as a many" (Mark 10:4,3-45) .... L  Father Castelot is a scripture scholar, author, lecturer. By FATHER JOHN J. CASTELOT Catholic News Service A scripture scholar's favorite passages proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" The passage Jesus read summarizes did and taught. Doing that, it also summarizes l Gospel. ' Whenever we read from the gy of the Word, we stand in the [ "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." People i sense the truth of that statement in retelling the story of Jesus. That is an awesome sibility for lectors at Mass. To fulfill it, however imperfectly, we know to be in touch with Jesus. Jesus spoke from Like the apostles on Pentecost, we have Spirit. Jesus spoke with a tongue afire with Reading the Gospel, we too have to of fire. ? For that we have to pray before reading the ( before telling the story of the good news. Every Gospel shows how Jesus prayed, before doing something very important. In Luke's Gospel, Jesus was praying his disciples the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-4)i Jesus praying, one of his disciples asked him them how to pray. The early disciples saw the connection Gospel and prayer. Entrusted with Jesus' disciples had to pray like Jesus did. We see that in the Acts of the Apostles, apostles made sure that they would haw for the ministry of the word, but for prayer. There was no separating the ministry of from prayer. That was true for the apostles. true for us. It stands to reason that the good news put us in touch with God. Gospels and prayer stand together. -- Prayer helps us understand the The Gospels help and inspire us to The good news of God is the word it does not only speak about God. It makes sent to us. In a Gospel, God speaks to us. It also speak to God. When God speaks to us, we we speak to God, we call it prayer. Father LaVerdiere lectures widely on ScriptUral! senior editor of Emmanuel magazine.