Meditations by Msgr. Liptak


Msgr. Liptakweekly gospel meditations



The Gospel and the Gospels

First Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52


Aim: to explain (1) the meaning of Gospel which preceded the four Gospels; (2) the characteristics of the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; (3) the Gospel according to each of us.


One message that can be crystallized from today's Bible readings is the identification of true and lasting wisdom with God's word.

Solomon, today's First Reading recalls, prayed for wisdom; his prayer was answered in God's gift of understanding.
Paul, in the Second Reading, assures us that our belief that God will always provide for his disciples is not just a pious thought; on the contrary, it is true wisdom.

The Gospel, from one of Jesus' parables, emphasizes the wisdom that the Kingdom of God is a treasure--like a precious pearl.

God's Word is of course the fundamental, absolute and perennial wisdom. This wisdom reaches a summit of expression in the Gospels, the historical and divinely co-authored accounts of Jesus' life and ministry.

Our English word "Gospel" derives from the Anglo-Saxon "Godspell," meaning "good tidings." (It translates the Greek euaggelion.) "Good news" is one way the word can be understood. One is prompted to think of a herald, an announcer, proclaiming the "Good News" of Jesus' fulfillment of the prophecies by his life, death and resurrection.
This thought is apt, for the Gospel was originally proclaimed before it was written down. Which means that there was a Gospel before the four Gospels.

The oldest written Gospel, it now appears, is that according to St. Mark, which dates from approximately 70 A.D. Prior to Mark's account, the Good News was promulgated orally, chiefly in three contexts: catechetical instruction, the liturgy, and preaching.

Preaching-announcing the Word of God in its fulfillment-was a principal responsibility of Peter and the Apostles (Ac 2:22 or Ac 10:38).

Catechesis was another means of disseminating the Gospel (Ac 2:42, or Ac 8:26-40, or Lk 24:25-27). Catechesis focused on the key truth of Christian revelation; namely, that Jesus of Nazareth, who was foretold by the prophets and who rose from the death of the cross, freely accepted for the salvation of all mankind, is both Messiah (Christ) and Lord, who lives and reigns at the Father's right hand; and who will come again in glory as our judge.

The third context in which the Gospel was first proclaimed was the liturgy; for example, the Eucharist, called "the Breaking of the Bread" (Ac 2:42), or baptism (e.g., Ac 2:41, 8:36-39). Luke's Gospel manifests a strong liturgical character; his account of the Presentation of the Lord employs liturgical terms, for instance.

The Gospel according to Mk was probably written around 70 A.D. Mark was a disciple of Peter; the Gospel was written to show the Romans that Jesus is the Son of God.

Luke's Gospel dates from about 75 A.D. Luke was a highly cultured Gentile physician; his Gospel was meant for Gentiles, to show that Jesus is Lord and Savior of all men.

Matthew's Gospel is didactic. Written about 85 A.D., it was written to show the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.
John's Gospel, finally, is theological and sacramental. Written perhaps about 90-100 A.D., it points to Jesus as the divine "Word" who became incarnate to be for all men the way, the truth, and the life.

Again, the Word of God constitutes the treasure on which we stake our lives; there is no other ultimate wisdom. This is the Gospel we preach and live by.

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