Reflection - Seventh Sunday of Easter 2021
Photo [cropped]: Christi Himmelfahrt by Gebhard Fugel, c. 1893
The Ascension of the Lord means we have nearly finished the Easter season. We are back to Mark’s gospel this Sunday.
We read a conclusion to the gospel which scripture scholars inform us is not Mark’s conclusion to Mark’s gospel! They say that Mark’s gospel ends abruptly at chapter 16/8. It certainly leaves us up in the air! Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome come to the tomb at daylight where they meet a young man who tells them that Jesus is risen!
He tells the women to go and tell Peter and the disciples that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee and will meet them there. The women’s reaction is understandable, they flee in terror and they keep the information given them by the young man to themselves! Some opinions are that Mark died before he finished the gospel and that what we read this Sunday was added by a disciple to ‘round off’ the gospel, and bring it to a proper conclusion.
In this longer ending, Jesus appears to Mary Magdelene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and finally to the eleven disciples. He reproaches them for their lack of faith and stubbornness in not believing that he was now in his resurrected body. On the other hand, we can think about the good news for Peter and the eleven disciples when they get the news, eventually, that Jesus wants to meet them in Galilee.
The fact that they had deserted him, that Peter had denied him before he entered into his passion and death, that they were forgiven and more than anything, restored to his friendship, is deeply significant for us. The Lord has given us an example, not just by washing our feet.
Jesus commissions the disciples to go out to the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The author of this conclusion of the gospel had the role of the Church in mind, he nominates the tasks given by Jesus: the disciples were to preach the good news to those who had not heard it, the disciples had a healing task, a concern for the body, mind and soul, in imitation of the Lord, the disciples would have a source of power given to them – the power of Jesus to cope with life as a Christian, the Lord would be with them, always be with them and in the Church which emerged from the believing communities.
William Barclay in his book The Gospel of Mark counsels us not to take everything literally, for example, handling poisonous snakes or drinking poison!
Finally, Jesus ascends into heaven, and becomes the Lord of history and life, sitting in the place of honour at the Father’s right hand. The earthly life of Jesus is over but he lives in us and in the Church. He is always with us and in us, let us rejoice!
Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.