Daily Reflection
April 14th, 2007

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Professor
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Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Acts 4:13-21
Psalm 118:1 and 14-15ab, 16-18, 19-21
Mark 16:9-15

Today’s Gospel is not very comforting, but Mark seldom is. Here, in this joy-filled Easter season, we encounter the risen Jesus scolding his followers because they didn’t believe what Mary Magdalene and the Emmaus couple told them. Many Christians today don’t believe in the bodily resurrection either. Mark’s community itself probably had the same doubts. (That’s why Mark relays this story.) Curiously, and despite their disbelief, Jesus plainly tells his disciples to go out to all the world and proclaim the “Gospel” to every creature. We, as Jesus’ disciples in the 21st century, are given precisely this same command.

“Gospel” in this instance means “good news” – but not just any good news. The word would have been heard by Jesus’ audience as news of a stupendous victory – one that will turn the world order upside down. In Jesus’ resurrection, God has overcome the ultimate human enemy – death. It is this that they – and we – must proclaim.

To begin with it takes a complete shift in focus, a kind of Copernican revolution. Being a follower of Jesus is not about us – our salvation – but about continuing Jesus’ work. Mark and the other evangelists all agree on this mission; we are to proclaim the best news ever, to make disciples of all nations, to let everyone in on God’s plan for humankind, to give everyone the choice that Moses put to the Hebrews as they stood on the threshold of the promised land: “Today I set before you life and death . . . choose life, then” (Deut 30:19).

How seriously do we 21st century Christians take this mission? How seriously can we take it, particularly living as we do in an explicitly pluralistic society – one that, while it seems to respect religion, nevertheless treats it as a strictly personal matter. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that not trying to find an answer that is right for us in our times is unacceptable, is not compatible with Jesus’ command to us. Also, I know that proclaiming the Gospel is not a job for just the clergy or hierarchy. We are the Church. We have been given this mission in our baptism. If the job seems daunting, well, it is. But we have the spirit of Jesus to tell us what to say and how to say it. The first Pentecost transformed Jesus’ skeptical, fearful disciples. That same spirit, whose coming we will celebrate in a few weeks, can transform us too.
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