Spirituality for Today – February 2016 – Volume 20, Issue 7

The Irony of Good News

Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

A photo of a stack of newspapers

At no time in human history has bad news been so accessible to the average person. All the major global tragedies occurring daily are fed into our living rooms via multiple networks devoted to supplying bad news in all its disturbing varieties all day every day. It is surprising that we do not live in a nation of terrified and depressed people. Commonly, we are seeing these news outlets entertaining the notion that they ought to promote news stories that are positive and hopeful in nature in order that their audiences realize that there are many good people doing good things.

In 1983, singer Anne Murray recorded a song written by Thomas Rocco, Rory Michael Bourke, and Charlie Black titled, A Little Good News. The song was a lament about all of the bad news that filled the airwaves and how the singer has had enough of it. The following lyrics make the point:

There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band
One more sad story's one more than I can stand
Just once, how I'd like to see the headline say
Not much to print today can't find nothing bad to say


Nobody robbed a liquor store in the lower part of town
Nobody OD'd, nobody burned a single building down
Nobody fired a shot in anger…nobody had to die in vain
We could use a little good news today
I'll come home this evening…I'll bet that the news will be the same
Somebody takes a hostage…Somebody steals a plane
How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a country fair
And how we cleaned up the air…how everybody learned to care

Given mankind's proclivity toward creating bad news, how do you change things, how do you raise the bar of moral values and human decency? Eradicating all evil might seem a fool's quest or, at least, an ideal much to be desired, but unrealistic. To whatever degree mankind can aspire to such high aspirations, it is well that good people everywhere strive to do it.

Intertwined in the experience of good and evil is an irony: to witness to the good we must immerse ourselves into understanding the bad. At least two generations have lost the recognition of sin. All is permissible, nothing is criticized, all values are relative have become the dogma of those who have been duped by the Father of Lies. Incredibly, we helped the Great Deceiver accomplish his mission. Reacting to an older catechetical approach that overemphasized the ubiquitous nature of sin, a post-Vatican II catechesis overemphasized Jesus' love and friendship to the point that the individual became indifferent to sin and even to the need to respond to the love and mercy of God. The obligations and invitations of love elude them. Thus, you might see them in many places, but not in the pews. One of the benefits of recognizing our sinfulness is the awareness that we have to go to someone and somewhere to atone for those sins and to bask in the glow of God's forgiveness. This gift of grace occasions a motivation within hearts and souls to exercise the spiritual sense and the common sense to choose the betterment of one's former self and, therefore, to give a constant benefit to the world in which one lives. If we grasp how sin disfigures and degrades the quality of life, then we are able to loathe our involvement in sin and appreciate the depth of love and thanksgiving that we owe to the Lord.

If the season of Lent offers anything profound, among the truths that Lent reveals is that we can turn bad news into good news, we can make our lives a more fruitful and beneficial presence in our world. Thus, the irony of accepting the role of bad news in raising us up to producing good news, indeed, may result in the revelation that "nobody robbed a liquor store in the lower part of town, nobody OD'd, nobody burned a single building down, nobody fired a shot in anger, [and] nobody had to die in vain." We'll finally have a little good news today.