Before seminary I worked as a reporter. In the news business we used a saying to determine whether a story merited front-page coverage or should be placed on the back page. “If it bleeds, it leads.” In newspaper jargon, it means, “If you want blood, we’ve got it,” and never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
In the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus tells his own story that he proclaims throughout his journey to the crucifixion. Mark’s gospel has been described as a “passion narrative” with a long introduction, meaning the story centers on Christ’s bloody sacrifice on Calvary. Jesus’s first words in the gospel—his lead-in—are, “Now is the time for fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”
The word gospel means “good news,” (in Old English quite literally, “God’s Spell”) and the good news that Jesus proclaims is that now is the time for salvation. Now—today, in the presence of God—is the time to commit to discipleship, to believe that what he says is true. Here and now, not then or there. These words of Jesus sum up the entire message in the Gospel According to Mark.
Time takes time. Saint Paul uses the word “kairos,” a Greek term that means simply “God’s time.” Earthly time is running out and the world in its visible form is passing away, as are we. According to Paul, we need to hear the good news now more than ever. We are all growing older, moving further away from the world and closer, we hope, to heaven. Be prepared, says Paul, who, next to Saint Peter and Mary his mother, knew Christ better than anybody. Through prayer Paul tuned in daily to the good news. Change everything but don’t change a thing. The end will soon be here. And when it is don’t say that it hasn’t been proclaimed from the housetops. Jesus’s message is loud and clear. Read all about it.
Never mind the critics. Don’t believe everything you read or hear in the media, especially about Christianity. Disaster stories sell newspapers and earn television ratings but they don’t report the truth about the sacrifice necessary to follow Christ. There is no quick fix, no infomercial excess, only acceptance of the truth of the faith and a commitment to carry it out every day according to our state of life.
Time is now. Pope Benedict warns U.S. bishops against “radical secularism,” which threatens the core values of American culture. To us in the Church, this out to be as clear as any banner headline can be clear. The pope met this week with U.S. bishops and encouraged the Church in our country—including politicians and health care officials—to “render more public witness” on critical issues, beginning with the basic truths of the faith, especially the right to life. “Powerful new cultural currents” have worn away the morality in this country, which originally was based on religious faith and ethical principals. I recently visited U.S. Capitol in Washington and came away from the tour with the affirmation that this country was founded by men and women who came here exclusively for religious tolerance and freedom, because they could find none in Europe. This isn’t just a story— it’s history—and the facts don’t get in the way.
Coming at the start of an election year, Benedict’s words are clearly relevant to American politics, a connection he made explicit by mentioning threats to “that most cherished of American rights: freedom of religion.” In response to such threats, the Church requires an engaged, articulate, and well-formed American Catholic conscience with the courage to articulate the Christian vision and the truths of the Catholic religion.
This week in Washington we will get our chance.
Monday is the 39th annual March for Life in Washington on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. Many of my parishioners will travel to Washington to march to the Supreme Court and to proclaim the good news of the Catholic Church teaching on life. We have to raise our voices to proclaim the good news because the world won’t do it for us. The silence from many major news outlets, the so-called “mainstream media,” is deafening—they barely cover the event. Later in the week small articles may appear in certain newspapers or on TV but they will distort the facts and describe the gathering as insignificant. I am telling you the truth.
To be fair, there are many ethical publications but many do distort the truth, claim that Christianity is irrelevant, outdated, and that the Church is filled with hypocrites. (Not so!—there’s always room for more!) This is the same story, the same tired talking points, that her critics have been running for years and it’s time they changed their story. Should it be any wonder why many newspapers are going out of print?
Christ delivers the good news: the love of God from heaven is happening here and now. For us, the time is now, to make our voices hear by proclaiming the good news, too.
Jesus’s message is radical, it terrifies and excites us about the gospel. Many hear the good news and change their lives, start living on God’s time. Jesus doesn’t ask us to join him—he tells us. “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Believe the good news. Find out the rest of the story. It’s too good not to be true.
Christ is the newsmaker, who draws our interest without being sensational. In Mark he beckons us to march with him toward Calvary and to carry the cross. He bleeds, he leads, we follow.