...to EVERY creature
SATURDAY IN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER - Mark 16:9-15. This is the so-called longer ending to Marks Gospel and compared to the Post-Resurrection appearance appended to the other Gospels is remarkably short and lacking in detail. Like in the other Gospels, Mary Magdalene is the first to receive confirmation that Jesus has returned from the dead and is given the task of taking the message (the purest form of "The Gospel") to the disciples. Predictably, they do not believe the report. Chapter 16 actually presents quite a negative picture of the shape of the disciples' faith. The early verses tell of the women who go and discover the empty tomb. They see a vision of angels who tell them "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised. He is not here. Behold the place where they laid him..." This is followed by instructions to go tell Peter and the disciples. But the original ending said that they women left the tomb and "said nothing to anyone" because they were so afraid.
Then comes today's reading. Mary told the disciples, "who were mourning and weeping," that she had seen the Lord, and they do not believe her. The implication is that their sadness and fear are getting in the way of the way of their faith. They have been with the Lord, they have heard his message, and seen the signs that he is the messiah, the anointed one of God. They have expresed their faith. But now they are too afraid. The crucifixion was just too much. The plan of the religious leaders to make an example of Jesus seems to be working. Jesus' movement will die because of fear and sadness. Fear and sadness will overcome faith.
A second report is made to the disciples. Two of their company were walking in the country and Jesus has appeared to them (Is this the Emmaus pair that Luke tells about?) The disciples don't believe them either. Wouldn't Jesus appear to his friend Peter first if he was truly resurrected?
Finally Jesus appears to them and rebukes them for their lack of belief "and hardness of heart." Hardness of heart seems, in the Scriptures, to be a direct afront to belief. There seems to be a component of will involved in hardness of heart. It is as though, because of their fear and sadness, they are CHOOSING not to believe. Jesus calls them to openness. Immediately thereupon, he commissions them to take the Gospel to the WHOLE WORLD - TO EVERY CREATURE. This highlights the connection between letting go of fear, letting go of sadness, letting go of hardness of heart, and our ability to complete the REQUIREMENT of our Christian faith. That's right, the spreading of the good news of the Resurrection is a REQUIREMENT of every believe, The believer cannot keep the good news to himself. He must take it to the world that needs the Good News.
After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Church is tasked with the continuation of Jesus' ministry and message. Our fear and hardness of heart will cause us to "say nothing to anyone." This is in direct disobedience to the Risen one, who calls us to take the message to the whole of his creation. Every Christian is an evangelist, a "good newser," who is called to bring his or her belief in the Risen one to the 4 corners of the world. Even as we proclaim the season "Alleluia! He is Risen!" Easter is a time for us to renew our belief in the resurrection, and therefore to renew our commitment to the mission we have been given: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."
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Fr. Bart Hutcherson, OP
Fr. Bart Hutcherson, OP is a Roman Catholic Priest & a Friar of the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus-USA. He is on the Pastoral Staff at Most Holy Rosary Parish in Antioch, California, and uses this page to post Homilies and Scripture reflections.