Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist
(II Peter 5:5b-14; Mark 16:15-20)
There is irony in the use of this gospel passage on this feast of St. Mark. In all probability the author of the “second gospel” did not write it. More likely a scribe appended it to the original gospel years later. But this twist should be no reason for disillusionment. All four gospels belong to the Church more than they belong to specific authors. As such, today’s passage bespeaks the role of the Church in the world.
The passage confirms how an appearance of the resurrected Jesus is associated with a commission to the Church to tell others about him. In this case, the disciples are not just to preach “to all nations,” as Matthew’s gospel has it, but to “every creature.” The reason for this universal destination is salvation. The passage’s proposes an “either-or” response to the message indicating that individuals will be either saved or condemned according to their reception of the message. This alternative is simplistic in a sense. For one reason, the signs that are to accompany the preaching are not manifest. Exorcisms, spontaneous new languages, handling of vipers, swallowing poisons, and curing the sick are rarely seen. Indeed, non-Christians have often found the gospel overbearing because of the counter-testimony to it which Christians give.
Yet Jesus Christ is still necessary for the world’s salvation. Only by practicing his message of forgiveness and love will the world move beyond enmity. This is increasingly necessary as the force of arms and the rapidity of actions increase. As Martin Luther King once said, "We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools."