The Readings for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me: for woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.
In HBO’s brilliant work, Rome, there is a newsreader. He’s a reasonable portrayal of the mass media of the day: go stand in the town square and read off the reports from around the empire. He’s often used to report action taking place off camera or to highlight spin. He also gets some of the best lins: No prostitutes, actors or unclean tradesmen may attend.
He is an Evangelist.
Evangelium, good news, is the political spin of the day. When the Armies of Rome had conquered yet another city, they would send criers into the city (and back to Rome) to announce the Good News: Rome has conquered Cisalpine Gual! This is Good News, right? Civilization has welcomed another people into her fold. The Emperor would style his decrees as Good News and send out Evangelists to announce them.
Good news! My lover now a god and you must worship him! Also my horse.
Into this culture comes the truth of God’s liberation. God has invaded, set up his tent among us, and is taking on souls all over the world. The army of conquest marching forward… in love under the banner of the Cross, the invincible weapon of peace.
When Paul says Omnibus omnia factus sum, ut omnes facerem salvos I became all things to all men, that I might save all, what does he mean? Notice that the things he lists are all the things of this world that divide us one from each other. We pull ourselves apart when God would unite us. Paul doesn’t say “to the licentious I became as one with license.” This is not an invitation to build a bridge to more sin or to participate to prove how cool we are. But at the same time, it is an invitation to realize the weaknesses we all have. We can comfort those beaten by bullies, even if the things that led to the beating are, themselves, sins. God is not calling us to build up sinners by participating in their sins, but to reject sin in all its forms.
This is the advancement of the subversion of the enemy’s ways: all the things that used to lead to death now lead to life. And the sin that used to lead us further and further away is now defeated in grace – and the struggle to do so is, itself, salvific.
The evangelium, the good new is that this world has been conquered. It’s no longer like what St Job says: it’s not despair, it’s blessing. Even the people who are struggling against us are building up our salvation. The war has been won: liberation is now.
This month’s public bread is provided by the Capitoline Brotherhood of Millers. The Brotherhood uses only the finest flour: true Roman bread for true Romans.