The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Homily: Saturday, Octave of Easter

Readings: Acts 4:13-21; Ps 118; Mk 16:9-15
Today, as we approach the end of the Easter Octave, our eight-day celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, we find in it the perfect sign of hope. The Resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. Really, could God provide us with any better guarantee of what He has in store for us?

What I have done for My Son, I will do also for you. As My Son is now with me in glory, so too will you come and dwell with us in eternal happiness. You need only do what the Son asks of you: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” [Mk 1:15].

These words – “Repent and believe in the Gospel” – are among the first words of Jesus we encounter in Mark’s Gospel. As a writer, Mark didn’t elaborate a lot, but just gave us the bare-bones facts. Indeed, he begins his Gospel with another matter-of-fact statement: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” [Mk 1:1]

No theological subtleties there. No, Mark gets right to the point of it all: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and the Son of God. It’s as if Mark is telling his reader: Just keep that in mind as you read this Gospel and all will become clear.

The passage from today’s Gospel reading is no different and includes some of the final verses of Mark’s Gospel. The last verse of this passage is equally straightforward, with the risen Jesus telling His small band of eleven apostles: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” [Mk 16:15]. No exclusions, no dispensations, no excuses. You and all those who follow you – and, that, brothers and sisters, includes you and me – must proclaim the Gospel always and to everyone.
"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel..."
And, remember, these 11 apostles weren’t the most faithful of disciples; and the death of Jesus had pretty much dissolved what little faith they had. They certainly didn’t expect a resurrected Jesus. After all, they believe neither Mary Magdalene nor the two disciples who had encountered our Lord on the road to Emmaus. No, it took Jesus Himself to convince them; and even then they were filled with doubts. It was so bad that Jesus, when He appeared to them, actually chewed them out “for their unbelief and hardness of heart” [Mk 16:14].

But, wasting no time, Jesus continued and gave them that final command, His great commission to proclaim the Gospel to all the world. Matthew, in his Gospel, adds a bit more: “Go therefore,” Jesus commands, “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” [Mt 28:19-20]

But regardless of the version, it’s kind of a scary command, isn’t it? After all, how much Gospel proclaiming have you and I done this week…this month…this year? I suspect it was scary too for the disciples who actually heard Jesus say it. If His Resurrection were unexpected, then this command was even more so.

“It is impossible for us not to speak..."
But then everything changes! We encounter the power of the Holy Spirit, and we see how, in an instant, He can change minds and hearts. His power is manifested in the remarkable witness of the Apostles in today’s reading from Acts. Peter and John, these fishermen, these “uneducated, ordinary men” [Acts 4:13], were doing miraculous things in Jesus’ name while proclaiming the Gospel throughout Jerusalem. They did so because, in their words, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” [Acts 4:20].

And so, if you’re a little behind in your Gospel proclaiming, recall again those first words of Jesus: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” -- for they are the key. Immerse yourself in the sacrament of Reconciliation; in repentance let the Holy Spirit shower you with His grace. Open yourself up to Him in prayer. Ask Him to guide you, to help you proclaim the Gospel by living the Gospel, so you, too, will be a witness to the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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