Today’s Gospel from St. Luke, which tells of John the Baptist preaching to the crowds, ends with the line, “Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.”
I’m wondering how many of John’s hearers would have characterized what he said to them as “good news.” The exhortations reported in the Gospel include telling the crowds: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” And telling the tax collectors, “Stop collecting mroe than what is prescribed.” And telling the soldiers, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
I’m guessing that not everyone who heard these words were all that pleased with them. And lest you shake your head about “those silly people back then,” there are plenty of us sitting around with extra cloaks in our closets and extra food in our pantries while many have no warm coats and nothing to eat. And plenty behaving in ways John warned the tax collectors and the soldiers against.
The “good news” is not always words that are easy to hear…”good” is not always either easy or pleasant. And so we all need Johns in our midst, prophets who challenge us, who call us to something more. And, as we are all called to preach the good news, we are all called to be a prophetic voice to others.