The disciples were, and we are, clearly instructed to “proclaim the Gospel.” What is the Gospel? I think the clearest and simplest definition of that comes from the introduction to “The Gospel According to St. Mark,” the earliest written of the four Gospels: Mark 1:1 – The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. So, the Christian Gospel, the good news, is the story of Jesus, beginning with creation (In the beginning was the Word…) and going all the way to the present time, the Church, the Body of Christ.
It apparently was only after the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, and arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that the Apostles and disciples finally got the point and understood what had happened and what they were to do. They had a big advantage: they were first hand witnesses of the ministry of Jesus, the healing and preaching and teaching and going about doing good.
They also had a big disadvantage: They were constantly threatened with imprisonment and death.
We Christians in the USA have neither that advantage nor that disadvantage those early followers had. We are not threatened with imprisonment or death, nor are we first-hand witnesses of the ministry of Jesus. But we do have what has been handed on or handed over to us. And we have the experience of being part of The Church, The Body of Christ.
Handed on or handed over is an important phrase in the New Testament. It is a translation of a Greek word meaning to give over to someone’s power or use something to keep, take care of, or manage. Read more about the Greek word HERE.
Two important and pertinent examples of Biblical use of “handed on” are these in St. Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; 4 that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; 5 that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.
So, what has been handed on to or entrusted to us is what the Church refers to as the Heritage or Sacred Deposit of Faith as described in these lines from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Probably the clearest and most concise statement of that Deposit of Faith today is the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Mass.
And, in addition to that Deposit of Faith, we have our personal experience as part of the Church, the Body of Christ, Christ as its Head, and empowered and inspired and guided by The Holy Spirit.
So, what we have to proclaim are what has been handed on to us and what we have experienced as part of the Body of Christ. Just as it was for Jesus and the Apostles, the extent to which our proclamation has credibility is going to be related to the extent to which our lives bear some witness to the truth of what we are proclaiming.
How can we do that proclamation? We can join in conversations, we can teach, and we can write. The third method is my favorite. And, if we are obviously faithful, loving God and neighbor as ourselves, and lost in service, our proclamations may have some credibility.
It is both challenge and burden.
The First NT Proclamations
Here are famous proclamations from the Book of Acts, five by Peter and two by Paul, verse numbers removed and paragraphs added.
Acts 2:14-36 (Peter’s speech at Pentecost)
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’
You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. For David says of him: ‘I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear. For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Acts 3:12-26 (After healing of the crippled beggar)
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, (the God) of Isaac, and (the God) of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said: ‘A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’
Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, ‘In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Acts 4:8-12 (When being questioned by the authorities)
Then Peter, filled with the holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’ There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
Acts 5:29-32 (When the apostles had disobeyed the command to stop preaching)
But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.”
Acts 10:34-43 (At Peter’s visit with Cornelius)
Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.
You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 13:16-41 (Paul to the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia)
So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, “Fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out of it and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.
After these things he provided judges up to Samuel (the) prophet. Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’
From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ “My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after sabbath. For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb.
But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people. We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you.’
And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way, ‘I shall give you the benefits assured to David.’ That is why he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.’
Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime, fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors, and did see corruption. But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, (and) in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, in him every believer is justified.
Be careful, then, that what was said in the prophets not come about: ‘Look on, you scoffers, be amazed and disappear. For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe even if someone tells you.'”
Acts 17:22-31 (Paul to the Athenians)
Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’
What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.
He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”
And, Finally, the Church Position on Apparitions
I wasn’t looking for this statement on apparitions or “private revelations” mentioned by Father Linsky, but just happened to notice it when I was looking up the statement on the Deposit of Faith. Search for the word “deposit” brought up this in the section about Jesus in the Profession of Faith.