This past semester at St. Joseph’s, the middle school group focused on the sacred scripture. We started with basics, how the Church formed the Bible and what books make it up. Then we zeroed in on the gospels, learned what parables were, and looked at a number of Jesus’ teachings and miracles. We also talked about the various themes brought out by each of the Great Evangelists:
- Matthew, portraying Jesus as the righteous Son of David
- Mark, bringing out the ministry and mission of Christ spreading the kingdom
- Luke, wanting to reach out to the Gentiles, heralding Christ as the Messiah to all the nations
- John, showing us the great love of Christ in the Bread of Life Discourse, the Good Shepherd passage, and the Last Supper Discourses
(On a more personal note, those Last Supper Discourses are my favorite chapters in all of the gospels, maybe even the entire Bible. If you’ve never encountered chapters 14-17 of John, please read them. Absolutely beautiful.)
We began and ended our semester with a question central to all of this:
What does the word gospel mean?
The word gospel literally means “good news”. My next question to the youth was why. Why is the gospel good news? Then I got to sit and listen to their answers, a number of wonderful truths. “It’s good news because Jesus came to show us the way to live.” “Because He redeems us and brings us back to God the Father.” “Jesus made a way of salvation for us through His sacrifice at the Last Supper and on the Cross.”
That final night, however, I let them in on a little secret. By definition, the gospels in the Bible tell the good news of Jesus alive and working in the world. And we believe, we have seen, we know, that Jesus is still alive and working in the world. That’s what we celebrate at Easter, that Christ is risen, never to die again. He is alive, here and now, and is still working in the world. He works in us and through us and around us, personally and profoundly. This, too, is good news!
Just as the Gospels handed down are meant to be proclaimed, the good news of Christ working in our lives today is also meant to be shared. One of my favorite questions to ask dear friends is, “What is God doing in your life?” And then, it never fails, powerful moments of our God present on this earth are shared, sorrows and joys molded into testimonies, which remind us of our true origin and destiny as sons and daughters of God. These stories are a celebration of Christ being our friend, healer, shepherd, and Lamb; of our Father sustaining us, holding us, renewing us; and the Spirit pouring love into us, present in grace, and being the breath of life within us.
What is God doing in your life?
The last night of the semester, we all gathered in the chapel and I shared this secret of the good news with the youth. Then I told them one of my good news moments, when God was teaching me something, showing me all the work He’s doing in my heart and helping me to understand how much He cares. It was a simple encounter too, a few minutes of prayer after a long day of yard work. After I shared my story, I asked the youth to read over some scripture and think about a time when they felt close to God, or saw Him at work in their life. They sat and thought about it, in silence, for longer than 10 minutes. (Yes, middle schoolers can pray in silence for over 10 minutes. Not kidding. It’s possible. I witnessed it.)
During this time, they reflected on their life and thought about how God might be moving in it. It was a struggle for some of them. Often, we don’t take the time to pause and look around and see what God is doing in our lives, or if we do stop to look, we don’t always see God at work clearly. Sometimes it doesn’t come spelled out. I know there are times where I don’t see what God is working or what I’m supposed to be learning from Him. But, even in these times of desolation, we can all rest assured that God loves us, and is present. Christ’s parting words to the apostles were “I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
God is present and wants us to see Him present. He’s even willing to help us do that. He’ll come in His Spirit and open our eyes and hearts to meet Him in our lives. Christ gave a mission to his apostles: “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) Whenever we proclaim Him, He is present in our speech. The world is yearning for the hope of Christ. The people on this earth, all of us, were made to know God and will never be satisfied with anything but Him. It is your mission as a disciple of Christ, as a son or daughter of God, to share the good news, to proclaim the greatness of God, that He is working in your life, today, that He was and is and is to come.