Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 14, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he had told her.

Reflection on the gospel reading: The accounts of the resurrection in John’s gospel continuously contrast three groups of people:

1. There are those who have seen the resurrected Lord with their own eyes and believe because of the evidence of their senses.

2. There are those who have not seen the resurrected Lord with their own eyes but all-the-same believe.

3. And there are those who have neither seen nor believe.

In today’s gospel, Mary begins her trek to the tomb in the third category: she has not seen the Lord, and she does not believe. But by the end of the passage, she has seen and she believes. At this point, she carries the message about her experience back to the disciples who then, based on Mary’s testimony, become members of either the second or the third categories. Thus it was that on the first day of the resurrection, the whole pattern of the spread of the Christian message was born.

The gospel we read today was written about 70 years after the death and resurrection of the Lord; some scholars have speculated that at that time, there probably were about 7,500 Christians in the world who celebrated the mystery they had received in about 50 different communities, most of which were in the eastern portion of the Roman empire. If those assumptions are correct, there were an average of 140 members in each of the Christian communities that existed in 100. Now, 70 years after the Paschal events, it is phenomenally improbable that there were even a dozen people left alive in the world who had seen the risen Lord; in other words, it is highly likely that far less than 0.002 percent of the very small number of believers who lived in 100 had seen the Lord in the way that Mary Magdalene saw him on that first day of the week. But there were still a good many people left who, though they themselves had not seen the resurrected Lord, knew someone who had seen the resurrected Lord.

When the evangelist wrote the Gospel of John, Jesus’ admonition at John 20:29, “Blessed are the ones who have not seen and have believed,” was an important observation for a tiny community with aspirations to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Indeed, we almost might as easily apply Jesus’ words not to the incredible faith in the resurrection but instead to the incredible faith that so tiny a community’s message would overcome so many hurdles to spread to the four corners of the earth. Does it not seem likely that so profound a faith in the power of the message to overcome so many daunting hurdles had resulted from the power of the witness of the men and women who announced to the Christians who lived in 100, “I have seen the Lord.” In other words, the testimony those first Christians bore was compelling indeed and gave rise to a powerful faith in the destiny of the religion of the second, third, and fourth generations of Christians.

The same message still has power. We do not know the result of what it is that we do. We must do what we feel called to do confident that what Gamaliel said two millenniums ago rings as true today as it did when he first spoke the words, If our purpose is of human origins, it will fail. But if it is of God, no one will be able to stop us.

Spiritual reading: But now the power of Easter has burst upon us with the resurrection of Christ. Now we find in ourselves a strength which is not our own, and which is freely given to us whenever we need it, raising us above the Law, giving us a new law which is hidden in Christ: the law of His merciful love for us. Now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please Him who has given all His love to us!

Now our life is full of meaning! … To understand Easter and live it, we must renounce our dread of newness and of freedom! (Seasons of Celebration by Thomas Merton )

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