If the Gospel is freeing, life-giving, and good, why is it so hard?
Don’t get me wrong. The Gospel, euangélion, “Good News,” is indeed good news. There is nothing better. Every sadness, all darkness, every suffering has an answer. It is only temporary. Christ has come to save us. There is no news better than that.
But accepting that, as we looked at last week, comes with a price. It requires us to love our enemies, resist sin, and follow his commandments. It requires that we live differently than the way the culture tells us will bring us happiness. We will look weird. We will called unloving or rigid. Not because we are, but because we know the Truth, we love the Truth, and we know that He alone sets us free.
And so my heart goes out to John a bit in today’s first reading. As we continue through the Book of Revelation at daily Mass, today we hear:
I, John, heard a voice from heaven speak to me. Then the voice spoke to me and said: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
As John takes the scroll, perhaps he remembers the vision of Ezekiel and knows what lies ahead. The scroll is going to taste sweet, because it contains truth and the goodness of the Lord’s promise (Ezekiel 3:12). But then the angel warns him…
“Take and swallow it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.”
Gee, thanks, right? It’ll taste sweet – as we hear in the Psalm: “How sweet to my taste is your promise!” But that’s not the whole story. Is it a bait and switch?
No. The sweetness, the goodness of the scroll is not a trick. The Truth is good. The message of the Gospel is liberating. But it’s not all wine and roses. John gets an upset stomach from that scroll. Why? Because he has to go speak the truth to people who are disobedient, sinful, and about to be punished.
“Then someone said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
The Gospel is good news. We need to proclaim that from the rooftops! People’s lives would be better if they accepted Jesus Christ into their lives, if they listened to Him and lived by His commandments.
But because there is a sin in the world and the Devil is prowling like a roaring lion, being Christian is not easy. We must speak the truth in a world that believes lies. We must speak of goodness in a world that has contented itself with evil.
I’ve read the end of the story. The Gospel wins. The Lamb wins. But first, we have work to do. It’s not going to taste very good. We are going to be misunderstood by our family and friends. Maybe we will be the “weird” ones, the ones who fight against the current or take a stand. Perhaps our children will be embarrassed by us or neighbors will spread lies about us.
The truth is sweet. But it requires something of us. It requires us to speak it, in season and out of season. And it requires us to love those who hate us and reject us.
So don’t be discouraged when these things happen. Don’t let them tempt you to abandon the mission. Nourished by the goodness of that scroll, let us go and live it together.