Reflection by Patrick J. Griffin, CM
The Liturgical Year 2015 offers us Mark’s Gospel as the dominant text for the Sundays in Ordinary Time. One could argue during this “Year of Consecrated Life” that one of the other Gospels could make a better source for reflection. When one expects the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, however, a particular encouragement emerges from this sacred writing for this year. To find it, one must begin at the end of the Gospel.
Many students of the Bible consider 16:6-8 as the original ending for Mark. The verses which follow (9-20) are unquestionably part of the canonical text, but also clearly have another source than the earlier writing. So, most likely, Mark’s Gospel originally ended in this way:
[The young man clothed in white] said to them [the women], “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’” Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mk 16:6-8)
These verses hold many interesting elements but let me direct your attention in particular to v. 7: “Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’” The goad for the disciples—and for the hearers/readers—prompts a return to Galilee. “Go back to where it all started. Return to the place in which you first met Jesus and remember how his story began there.”
Some serious subjects that we study allow us to arrive at a certain point, and then we realize that we really do not understand the matter well. Something fundamental has eluded us! We feel the need to commence our study again from the beginning. The situation at the end of Mark 16:6-8 suggests this need in recalling and retelling the story of Jesus. The women are plainly not ready to announce the good news about Jesus. They, with Peter and the disciples, need to go back to their first encounters with the Lord and listen to his words again, walk in his steps again, and experience his actions again. Only then can they begin to truly understand so as to choose to follow and proclaim his name. They need to reintroduce themselves to the Lord.
For my ear, two texts have wonderful titles which encourage that same attitude. One is Marcus Borg’s book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. The seemingly contradictory title draws our attention to its thesis which involves a renewal of the way in which we attend to the Lord and allow ourselves to be led. The other text is a document of the Church, Starting Afresh from Christ which is subtitled A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium. This instruction extends an invitation to return to the basics and start afresh in hope, in adhering to the Gospel, in living the spirituality of communion, and so on. It argues persuasively for those who embrace consecrated life:
It is necessary to adhere ever more closely to Christ, the centre of consecrated life and once again take up the path of conversion and renewal which, like the initial experience of the apostles, before and after the resurrection, was a starting afresh from Christ. Yes, one must start afresh from Christ because it was from him that the first disciples started in Galilee; from him, that throughout history men and women of every status and culture, consecrated by the Spirit in the strength of their call, have started out; for him they have left family and homeland, following him unconditionally, making themselves available for the announcement of the Kingdom and doing good for all (cf. Acts 10:38). (Starting Afresh from Christ, 21).
Notice the way in which this passage also revisits the disciples in Galilee!
For us, in this year of renewal, the invitation to go back to the beginning can be a persuasive one. We can return to our “first love” as that which drew us to consecrated life: the values and vision of Vincent and Louise. We can step back into the role of service which won our hearts and minds. We can rejuvenate our understanding of Christ and what he meant and what he now needs to mean for us.
The call in Mark’s Gospel to “return to Galilee” is a worthy one for us in this year. Our faith and our thinking need not be wider but deeper. There can be less attraction to learn novel stuff, and more to remember what is most important. As consecrated persons, we seek the grace to hear the Gospel anew and be thrilled with the message once again. We desire to respond to the call to repentance and to the Lord’s nourishment in the Eucharist. All that—and much more—await us in Galilee as we renew our acquaintance with the Lord in this year of blessing.