“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:14-15).
In the Gospel for this Sunday (Mk 1:14-20), Mark describes Jesus’ message with the Greek word, Euaggelion. Since this word is usually associated with the four Gospels, we might not realize that there is also a wider sense of “Gospel,” as when Paul speaks of “my gospel” (Rom 2:16; 16:25), referring to his preaching about Jesus.
The basic meaning of Euaggelion “Gospel” is “Good News.” This word was used for proclamations of victory in battle, a royal birth, or a political triumph.
When Jesus preached “good news,” what “good news” did He bring that was not already present in the Old Testament?
The “good news” is tied with who He is. Mark begins his Gospel with the words “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1). The “good news” is first of all the presence of Jesus Himself the “Son of God.”
Thomas Aquinas, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, reflects that because Jesus is the Son and God’s Word, He is able to reveal the Father:
“For in the past, the Only Begotten Son revealed knowledge of God through the prophets, who made Him known to the extent that they shared in the eternal Word. Hence they said things like, ‘The Word of the Lord came to me.” But now the Only Begotten Son has made Him known to the faithful; ‘God, who in many and varied ways, spoke to the fathers in past times through the prophets, has spoken to us in these days in His Son’ (Heb 1:1)” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 221).
Jesus teaches us because He is the Son while Jesus’ incarnation enables us to understand Him because He has taken our nature:
“Order is found in learning; and this in two ways: as to nature, and as to ourselves … As to nature, in Christian doctrine the beginning and principle of our wisdom is Christ, inasmuch as He is the Wisdom and Word of God, i.e., in His divinity. But as to ourselves, the beginning is Christ Himself inasmuch as the Word has become flesh, i.e. by His Incarnation” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 34).
The essential message that the presence of the Son of God, who has taken human nature is God’s love for us:
“The very nature of God is goodness … Hence what belongs to the essence of goodness befits God. But it belongs to the essence of goodness to communicate itself to others … Hence it belongs to the essence of the highest good to communicate itself in the highest manner to the creature, and this is brought about chiefly by ‘His so joining created nature to Himself that one Person is made up of these three – the Word, a soul and flesh’ (Augustine, On the Trinity, 13). Hence it is fitting that God should become incarnate” (Summa Theologiae, 3a. 1, 1).
Jesus’ taking our flesh is the ultimate “good news” for us, as Thomas explains:
“It was necessary that God should become incarnate for the restoration of human nature … This may be viewed with respect to our furtherance in good. First, with regard to faith, which is made more certain by believing God Himself Who speaks … Secondly, with regard to hope, which is thereby strengthened; hence Augustine says (On the Trinity, 13), ‘Nothing was so necessary for raising our hope as to show how deeply God loved us. And what could afford us a stronger proof of this than that the Son of God should become a partner with us in human nature?’ Thirdly, with regard to charity, which is greatly enkindled by this; hence Augustine says (Catechesis of the Uninstructed, 4): ‘What greater cause is there of the Lord’s coming than to show God’s love for us? … If we have been slow to love, at least let us hasten to love in return.’” Fourthly, with regard to well-doing, in which He set us as example … Fifthly, with regard to the full participation of the Divinity, which is the true bliss of man and end of human life; and this is bestowed upon us by Christ’s humanity; for Augustine says (On the Seasons, 13): ‘God was made man, that man might be made God’” (Summa Theologiae, 3a. 1, 1).
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
Quotations from Thomas’ Commentary on John are from St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John, Vol. 1, trans. James Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian R. Larcher, O.P. (Albany, NY: Magi Books, 1980).