Father Bob’s wisdom. The feast of the Annunciation.

ANNUNCIATION, 2012

Sometimes the news is so grim these days that one doesn’t know whether to watch the suppertime news and not be able to eat, or watch the late night news and not be able to sleep.

There was a man who developed insomnia and an ulcer because he had fallen into the habit of watching the late evening television news just before retiring. He improved rapidly after a doctor, who had encountered the same symptoms in other patients, prescribed an hour of quiet reading as a substitute for TV news at bedtime.

How does one deal with bad news?What do we do with it? How do we handle it? For Christians, there is an answer.

On March 25, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. On this day the angel announced to Mary that she had been chosen by God to bring the Saviour into the world. We call it Annunciation because it is the announcing of the greatest good news humankind has ever heard: the coming of God into the world, and more especially, into our lives, to overcome sin and death for us, to make us sons and daughters of God, heirs of His everlasting Kingdom.

Christianity is not a polyanna type religion. It does not always begin with good news; it begins by acknowledging the bad news that exists in our world and in our lives: sin, death, suffering, despair, loneliness, hopelessness. Good news cannot be good news unless we first have a sense of the bad news of our situation.

It was into a world full of bad news that Christ came to be good news. “And the angel said to the shepherds, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’. Note the words: good news of a great joy.” When Jesus began preaching in Nazareth, He opened to the book of Isaiah and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then Jesus said to those listening, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Christ is the fulfillment of God’s good news! No wonder Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” We read in the prophet Isaiah, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace … who brings salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’.” These prophetic words were fulfilled in Christ.

The whole life and ministry of Christ in the world is best described by the word evangelion or gospel, good news. St. Mark begins his gospel: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Gospel = good news! How hungry the human race is today for such good news!

GOOD NEWS! Christianity is not a search for God. If it is anything, it is good news from God. It is not a human discovery; it is a revelation from God. It is not mankind groping and stumbling alone in the darkness, trying to find the ladder to heaven. It is God Himself coming down the ladder in His own dear Son so that He might lift us out of our blindness and helplessness into His light and power.

Not good advice, but good news. This is the Gospel of Christ. It is primarily an announcement of what God does, and has done in the Person of Jesus. When the early apostles preached, they merely made a proclamation, an announcement of what God had done in Jesus. They called upon the people to listen to the good news: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself,” so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”, we read in the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians. But that was not all. Jesus had risen from the grave. By His death He overcame death for the committed members of His body, the Church. Then, having ascended into heaven, He sent the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church, bringing them new life and power, changing their lives completely, filling them with life that was real life indeed. That was the message! That was, and is, the Gospel! The entire emphasis is upon what God has done in Christ to overcome the human race’s bad news of sin and death.

This — and none other — is the message of the Gospel of Christ, “Rejoice, we have a victory!” This is why every Christian cannot help but be an evangelist, spreading everywhere the good news of the faith. This is why the early Christians proclaimed the resurrection of Christ with such rejoicing and unrestrained enthusiasm. Christ is risen and our sins are forgiven! Christ is risen and death is overcome! Christ is risen to fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit! Christ is risen and with Him we too rise to a life that is life indeed! “In the world you have tribulation, but rejoice, I have overcome the world,” said Jesus. Through faith, prayer, and the sacraments we share in His overcoming.

The greatest good news about God is that He does not hate us. He loves us. He does not wish to punish us for our sins. He seeks to forgive. He is the Father of the prodigal who ran to welcome his returning son. Some people have a tendency to suspect that God is hostile to them. Jesus completely erased this suspicion. “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” The greatest good news about God is that He “so loved the world (each one of us) that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life.”

St. John Chrysostom wrote, “That one man should be punished for another’s account seems to most people unreasonable. That all should be justified because one man had done right would be more reasonable, and more suited to God.” That is the good news of God’s forgiveness in Christ. In the Epistle to the Romans we hear: “Where there is much sin, there’s even more grace.” For those who have sinned and know the pain of guilt, there is no sweeter good news than God’s forgiving love in Christ.

We live with the bad news of death — man’s last and greatest enemy; death which comes to rip apart the ties of friendship, marriage, and love; death which will one day come to put an end to my earthly life and yours. But in the darkness of death there shines a light — the resplendently glorious light of the Resurrected Christ, who came back from the grave and said, not “I think there is another life,” not “I hope there is,” not, “There ought to be,” not “There may be,” but, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” That is the gospel — the good news of Christ for my death, the good news of the overthrow of death in the death of Christ who has trampled down death by His death. Apart from Christ, there would be absolutely no good news concerning death. When we die, we are buried in the bosom of the Son of God.

This is the good news we celebrate on the great Feast day of the Annunciation! Good news about God’s love! Good news about God’s forgiveness! Good news about God’s power for our weakness! Good news about the death of my death in Christ’s resurrection! Good news about our Great Liberator, the Lord Jesus, to Whom be all glory, worship, and thanksgiving now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.