Friday, April 01, 2016

Saturday in the Octave of Easter

“The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene” 
by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1638
Reading 1: Acts 4:13-21
Commentary on Acts 4:13-21
This is the conclusion of the story of the healing of the lame beggar at the “Beautiful Gate.” The Sanhedrin has a problem. Too many people saw the miracle done in Jesus’ name. They attempt damage control by threatening Peter and John. This does not work and we hear the final word of their kerygmatic discourse as they proclaim the Risen Christ once more.  Significant is the fact that the reason the Sanhedrin could not punish them further was the event had been attributed by the people to God’s mercy not to the disciples themselves.
CCC: Acts 4:20 425; Acts 4:21 2640
R. (21a) I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
R. Alleluia.
Psalm 118 is the great litany of thanksgiving. In this selection, it leads nicely into Mark 16:9-15 with: “I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.” (v.21) David gives thanks for the salvation that comes from the Lord.  Faith in God has led him from death to life.  The Lord is the “gate of justice” and he opens the way to eternal life.
CCC: Ps 118:14 1808
Gospel: Mark 16:9-15
Commentary on Mk 16:9-15
This Gospel selection is called “The Longer Ending” or “The Canonical Ending” of St. Mark’s Gospel. It captures pieces of the story we have from the narratives of the resurrection found in the Gospels of St. Luke (Luke 24:10ff) and St. John (John 20:11ff). The emotion expressed is one of fear and determination, rather than joy and confidence found in later writings. This earliest of the Gospel accounts provides a very human account of Jesus’ friends immediately following his death and before their recognition of his risen victory.
CCC: Mk 16:11 643; Mk 16:12 645, 659; Mk 16:13 643; Mk 16:14 643; Mk 16:15-16 977, 1223; Mk 16:15 888
As we listen to the condensed story of the discovery of the resurrection from St. Mark’s Gospel, we are reminded that the disciples did not come to understand immediately what had taken place.  They rejected the story told by Mary Magdalene, and even the two disciples who had been traveling to Emmaus.  It was not until the risen Lord had come and stood in their midst that they believed that Jesus was not dead, but alive, risen as he had told them.
We celebrate the joy of Easter already having come to faith and understanding of the resurrection.  We have, almost from our birth in many cases, been told the story of the resurrection of Jesus and had it explained.  If we have accepted the reality of the empty tomb solely on faith we are blessed indeed. St. Thomas was not that fortunate.  If we have struggled with the apparent contradiction of the events, with the physical reality of life and death as we know it, and come at last to belief that it was possible for God and explainable by human logic, then we too are blessed.
If you are one of the many who have doubts, consider this: for two thousand years this story has been told and reenacted countless times.  It has been challenged and suppressed, it has been denied and those who continued to tell the story have been persecuted and killed.  Some of the most brilliant minds in human history have embraced the story as true and offered their lives in its defense.  If you cannot find it in your heart to accept that Jesus, who was a man, born of a woman, but in essence was the Only Son of God who was crucified, died, and rose from the dead, then accept that others of greater intellect have done the heavy lifting for you, and accept this truth as an unknowable fact.
But once you have accepted this truth, seek with your heart for the faith that brings compete belief.  Pray for it! The enemies of the Cross are many and they are tireless in their attempts to deny the empty tomb, and they are persuasive and powerful.  Our defense is that the call he left the disciples still echoes in the world: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."  We, who accept this call, work to create a world based upon the great truth of our Lord and Savior.

[2] The picture used is “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene” by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1638

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