The greatest speechwriters will tell you that the secret to their craft is this:
Tell them what you’re going to tell them,
tell them, and then …
tell them what you told them.
There’s nothing new in that lesson. In fact this Sunday’s mass readings will tell you where our greatest communicators learned it: from our creator.
God taught his greatest communicators—the prophets—through the gift of His Holy Spirit. In the case of Jesus, he was self-taught. But even Jesus referred back to the prophets who foretold his coming. We see that synergy in today’s first reading from Isaiah and in the gospel from Matthew. Through Isaiah God told us what he was going to tell us, through Jesus he tells us and through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and, of course, the letters of Paul—he tells us what he told us. In today’s readings the message is clear:
“On those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.”
And that light has removed all shadows of doubt, leaving only truth in plain sight. John the Baptist told us what that truth would tell us, Jesus tells it, and Matthew tells us what Jesus told us:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Through John, Jesus tells us he is the way, the truth and the light.
Elsewhere in Isaiah, we are told:
“The spirit of the lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.”
Then through Luke, Jesus tells us:
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
These words all boil down to the truth. The truth is simple and pure—like light. And because our creator knew that human nature likes to obscure the truth, Jesus chose simple men he knew would not confuse his message. But as we see in today’s letter from Paul, keeping that word pure would take constant effort, as we read in this Sunday’s letter to the Corinthians:
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree in what you say,
and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose….
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”
Paul was giving all of us—through those disparate disciples of his—an important lesson in communicating the way, the truth and the life:
Just tell them what He told us!