Bulletin B Ascension May 16, 2021
My Dear People,
Finally, Jesus appears to the eleven remaining Apostles as they are gathered together (see Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23) and reprimands them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, familiar themes in the Gospel of Mark (6:52; 8:17,33). With this reproach the author highlights for all readers the crucial importance of believing the testimony of the resurrection. Indeed, the distinguishing mark of a Christian is accepting the apostolic testimony: “He is alive, and we have seen Him.” (see Acts 2:32).
Jesus’ reproach does not invalidate the Apostles’ commission but rather prepares them for it. Chastened by the recognition of their own slowness to believe, now they are commissioned to proclaim the gospel to every creature. It is the same charge given at the end of Matthew’s Gospel (28:18-20); see also Luke 24:47) and anticipated in the eschatological discourse (Mark 13:10). The good news is no longer limited to God’s chosen people, as it had been during Jesus’ earthly life (7:27: see Matt. 10:6). It is destined for all the world, Jews, and Gentiles alike.
The stakes are high: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. Belief alone is not enough; it must be expressed and ratified with Baptism, an action of God by which a believer is united with Jesus in His death and resurrection (see Rom. 6:1-6) and incorporated into the Church. Whomever does not believe—that is, whomever hears the gospel and refuses to accept it—forfeits God’s gift of salvation (see Mark 8:35-36).
Jesus promises supernatural signs and wonders that will accompany not only the Apostles but ordinary Christians (see John 14: 12-14). Jesus had earlier given His Apostles authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:14); now this power is extended to the faithful in general (see Acts 8:5-7; 16:18). They will speak new languages, a reference to the gift of tongues given at Pentecost (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6) and experienced in the early Church’s worship (1 Cor 12:10; 14:1-28). They will be protected from deadly perils like venomous serpents (see Acts 28:3-6) or poisoned drinks.
Finally, as the Twelve had done earlier, the believers will lay hands on the sick for healing. Just as Jesus always accompanied His preaching of the Gospel with works of healing and deliverance (1:34; 3:10), so is the Church called to do. The preaching of the Gospel is not merely a verbal activity but a demonstration of God’s power. For the early Church, healing was a major part of the credentials of the Gospel.
Fr. Vincent Clemente