Friday, April 21, 2017

'HE REBUKED THEM FOR THEIR DISBLIEF."


April 22nd, 2017: Easter Saturday. Mark 16: 9-15.

          Throughout Easter week we have been hearing gospel readings which tell of the risen Lord Jesus sending out those to whom he appeared to proclaim that he is risen. On Monday he encountered the women visiting his empty tomb and told them: “Do not be afraid! Go and carry the news to my brothers . . .” On Tuesday we heard him giving the same command to Mary Magdalene. On Wednesday he encountered two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus and made himself known to them “in the breaking of the bread” – the first post-Easter celebration of Mass. On Thursday we heard the account of Jesus appearing to the apostles, with the previously missing Thomas, a week after Easter. “You are witnesses of all this,” he tells them: not just a statement, but also a command. Yesterday we heard about Jesus encountering seven of his apostles, tired from a night of fruitless fishing on the lake, and charged Peter to “feed my sheep.”

          Today’s gospel reading is a kind of summary of all this. Twice over we hear that even after hearing the testimony of people who had seen the risen Lord, “they refused to believe.” Sitting at table with the eleven remaining apostles Jesus “takes them to task for their disbelief and stubbornness,” Mark writes, “since they had put no faith in those who had seen him after he had been raised.”

          Note what immediately follows. To these men whose faith was not merely weak, but missing entirely, Jesus says: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.” That challenged not only those eleven at table with Jesus. It also challenges us. When we think our faith is too weak to enable us bear witness to the risen Lord, and to proclaim his good news to an often hostile though hungry world, we should remember: the first witnesses were also weak in faith, even lacking in any faith. Yet Jesus did not hesitate to send them. He knew that in the very act of proclaiming the good news to others their own faith would be kindled, and deepened.

Another man who knew that was the namesake of the present Pope: St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach always,” Francis said. “When necessary, use words.”