April 25th, 2017, Feast of St. Mark: Mark 16:15-20.
Our gospel starts with Jesus’ parting command to his disciples: AGo into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.@ In the measure in which we try faithfully to fulfill this command, Jesus continues today to do what he promised to do when he gave the command: to confirm the gospel message by Asigns.@ In the pre-scientific world of the first century, there were signs appropriate to that age. Mark mentions them: the power to drive out demons, to speak new languages, immunity to deadly snakes and poisons, the power to heal the sick.
Today=s signs are different: the worldwide example and inspiration of a Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, of Pope St. John Paul II, who soldiered on to the end despite bodily weakness, attracting at successive World Youth Days larger crowds than any rock star. The century which closed seventeen years ago brought us the sign of some twelve thousand Awitnesses for Christ@: women and men all over the world who, in the bloodiest of all centuries in recorded history, gave their lives for Jesus Christ. AThe age of the martyrs has returned,@ Pope St. John Paul II said as the twentieth century drew to a close. And in a great ecumenical service seventeen years ago in Rome=s Coliseum, where many martyrs shed their blood for Christ in antiquity, the Pope joined other Christian leaders in commemorating these twelve thousand witnesses to Christ.
Impressive as their witness is, and the other signs I have mentioned, perhaps the greatest of all today=s signs, which confirm the gospel message given to us by Jesus at his Ascension, is simply this: that after so much failure by Christians in history, and by the Church=s leaders and members in our own day; after so many frustrations, after so many betrayals – yes, and so many scandals -- and after so many defeats in the struggle to fulfill Christ=s missionary command C nevertheless, after twenty centuries, so many, all over the world, are still trying to be faithful.