‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news…’
[This is the third of the 11 Resurrectional Gospel readings of Matins]
The oldest version of St. Mark’s Gospel ends with a cliff-hanger: the Myrrh-bearing women fleeing the tomb in fear. Did Mark mean to end there? That would not be surprising from the Evangelist whose sign is the winged lion, and who teaches us to work out our salvation in ‘fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12).
Yet later versions add a second ending. This one is like a divine tapestry, weaving together Resurrectional events that will be amplified in the other three Gospels: appearances to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the eleven. It also includes the Lord’s ascension after the 40 days of His earthly manifestation.
When the disciples fail to believe that He had risen, The Lord ‘upbraided them for their lack of faith and hardness of heart’ (Mark 16:14). The disciples are not alone in this quality. We too can find ourselves with callous dispositions and complicit with harsh and selfish values of the world.
We can learn from the current pandemic that we can do perfectly well without the celebrities and sports stars who are the envy of this world. But we are dependent on those health care workers, storeroom stockers and home delivery drivers whom we would normally take for granted. This should soften our hearts and realign our priorities.
Yet despite our sins and faults, God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. His Holy Spirit empowers us to go out and work to heal our broken world. Indeed, the Lord prophesized:
I tell you, the one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)
These works will be marked by signs. Some of these signs do appear in the book of Acts, but we should not take them as a warrant to attempt deeds like snake handling , as some American religious sects do. When it comes to signs, we should heed the words of St. Isaac of Syria:
He who senses his sins, is greater than he who raises the dead….