In today’s reading, St. Paul the Apostle is explaining in his Letter to the Galatians that the Gospel he has preached to them is not man made, but of Christ. To this end, he uses arguments derived from events in his own life.
First, he confesses that originally he was an enemy of Christ. “I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (verse 13). What Paul wants to say with this, is that with such malice towards Christ, how could he just invent all the things he was preaching about Christ? He is essentially saying this: Understand that the Gospel I have preached to you does not come from me; the words I have taught you are not my own words.
Secondly, he makes the point that he had not received the Gospel from someone else. He was living in Damascus, and for a period of time resided in the desert of Arabia and, after some years, went to Jerusalem (the Apostles having already departed from there). He then goes on to say that the only one he met was Peter, and only stayed with him for 15 days. The implication of Paul saying this is that it would have been impossible for Peter to teach him the Gospel during those few days. In any event, there was no need, because he had already been preaching the Gospel to the world; all this means, is that “the gospel which I have preached to you is not according to some human” (verse 11).
From where then, did the Apostle of God receive and communicate all these God-inspired and joyful messages? Paul himself gives us the answer: the Gospel “came to me through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (verse 12). I felt that it was the grace of God that called me to serve Him, and that he favored me with His revelation of His Son in order to bring the joyous message about Christ to the gentiles (See verses 15-16).
Paul leaves us with no doubt whatsoever that the Gospel he is preaching is the one he received from Christ, that is why he calls it “Gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12 and elsewhere). Paul the Apostle is also definitely certain that everything he teaches is what he has received from Christ. That is why he allows no alteration in the Gospel of Christ that he is teaching. It is for the sake of the Gospel that he was persecuted, stoned, put in jail, and at any moment, was ready to die in order to prove himself loyal to the Gospel.
What exactly was the Gospel that St. Paul the Apostle was preaching? It is the one, which the twelve Apostles also had received from Christ. It is what Jesus Himself was preaching during the three years of His public ministry, as Matthew the Evangelist informs us: “And Jesus went about … preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Matthew 4:23).
Why then is it called Gospel (“good spell”), that is, “joyous news”? What are the joyful messages it conveys? We could talk about the first one being that of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in Nazareth: “Rejoice, you highly favored one, … you will … bring forth a Son and shall call His name Jesus … and will be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:28,31,32). On the holy night that Jesus the Savior was born, another Angel brings a message to the shepherds of Bethlehem: “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. That there is born to you this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11). Everything that Jesus was doing and teaching was bringing joy and comfort to people.
It was a particular joy, however, that the Lord’s glorious resurrection from the dead brought. With this, Christ became victorious over man’s greatest enemy, the devil. Christ destroyed eternal death, and saved humanity from sin. He reunited mankind with God, opened the gate of paradise, and secured for us the eternal delight in His heavenly kingdom. The four Evangelists, under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, have recorded these messages of joy most necessary for our salvation in the holy book, the “GOSPEL,” which all of us know and study daily.
My dear brothers and sisters, I am confident that we harbor no doubts of the kind that the Galatians of those times had, and know that the Gospel St. Paul the Apostle and other Apostles were preaching is the God-inspired truth that Christ taught. However, this is not enough. The Lord also exhorted all to “Repent, and believe in this joyous message [Gospel]” (Mark, 1:15); and since you believe in it, “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). To this, St. Paul makes the following summary remark: “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ”! (Philippians 1:27). Let this be our daily endeavor in the certainty that this way, our life will be filled with the joy of Christ. This is my wish for you for the New Year.