A mission statement from the Gospel of Mark
A Reflection for the Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist
Find today’s readings here.
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mk 16:15-18)
Call it a mission statement or maybe a closing argument. Today we receive a concise summary of the mission Jesus has given to his apostles. After he spoke these words, he “was taken up to heaven,” so the apostles clearly knew these words mattered. That’s one heck of a mic drop.
So what is Jesus saying to his apostles? Thank God for St. Mark, who keeps it simple and to the point. Believe, get baptized and you’re all good. And in case you need any proof, God will provide it in the form of miracles: “These signs will accompany those who believe.”
Perhaps we should focus on Mark’s first line—“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”—and let God do the rest.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? But it was not so black and white, even for the apostles. Sometimes they performed miracles and people were converted. But they did not heal everyone they encountered, no more than Jesus did. And obviously they did not convince everyone to follow Christ. We know this because they were martyred.
In other words, they faced a complicated world, where some people believed and some people didn’t, and where they needed to support one another when things got hard. “Greet one another with a loving kiss,” we read in the first reading. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”
Two thousand years later, it’s easy to read Mark’s words and say, “It’s more complex than that.” But maybe instead we should seek to recover the energy of that moment that sent the apostles to the ends of the world. Perhaps we should focus on Mark’s first line—“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”—and let God do the rest.