Photo: Artit Fongfung / Shutterstock.com
Acts of the Apostles 4:13-21 Mark 16:9-15
A Dominican Sister reflects …
The Scripture readings for this week have been amazing! And though I don’t want to offend any liturgists, I firmly believe that these weekday readings would have made a heck of a lot more sense, if the Gospel had been read before the Acts of the Apostles.
When we read Gospel before Acts, we might better understand the disbelief of these disciples. Disciples, who Mark refers to as Jesus’ companions. While the post resurrection appearances we’ve heard from Matthew, Luke, and John have thus far depicted the disciples as believing what they have been told by other disciples, each of these Gospels was likely written after Mark. Therefore, Mark’s depiction of these companions, is likely much more realistic. Mark’s Gospel is direct, it moves quickly, and in it, we are likely to find characters not unlike ourselves.
Towards the end of today’s reading we hear that when they were at table, Jesus appeared to the disciples “and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he was raised.”
I don’t know about you, but if I were at a reunion dinner and heard those words from Jesus, it would have definitely spoiled my appetite! We are not told HOW the disciples responded to Jesus’ rebuke, because he proceeds immediately with the directive: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” That’s it! There is no discussion, no time for apologies. There is Good News to proclaim and they’d best be about it quickly.
Pheme Perkins reminds us that none of the disciples were great heroic figures. They fell asleep when Jesus asked them to stay with him in the garden. They denied knowing him. They disbelieved one another. They were scared and uncertain of what was to come next.
Despite these touching signs of friendship, Jesus returned to these same disciples after the resurrection and commissioned them. He did NOT seek out stronger, more trustworthy companions. He returned to his friends and entrusted them with spreading Good News.
When we turn to the readings we’ve heard from Acts this week, we see that thy are taken from chapters 2 through 4. And what they’ve recounted are marvelous stories of the boldness and the courage of the disciples, disciples who are filled with the Holy Spirit! Disciples, who have taken to heart Jesus’ commission to proclaim the Gospel; disciples, who had previously denied Jesus and disbelieved one another. The BOLDNESS and the courage of Peter and John is a direct result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the experience if you will, of the feast of Pentecost, which is recounted in chapter 2 of Acts.
Today we heard how Peter and John, who were explicitly identified as “companions of Jesus,” completely disregarded the Jewish authorities who had given them “a stern warning” not to speak to anyone about the name of Jesus. These two bold companions of Jesus were also perceived by the authorities as being uneducated and ordinary. While they may have been uneducated, they were anything but ordinary. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the fearful became courageous, the timid became bold, the disbelievers became proclaimers of the Good News that Jesus had been raised, and that life was stronger than death.
Today, as companions of Jesus, we celebrate that God has invited us to be among those blessed to not only share faith and life with one another, but to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature!” We are blessed, indeed, to have received the invitation to spread the message of God’s love, justice and peace to all people.
LET US REJOICE, BE GLAD & GIVE THANKS!
Maribeth Howell, OP