Jesus’ Easter Rebuke and the Faith that Flows From It, Easter Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Saturday of Easter Week
April 11, 2015
Acts 4:13-21, Ps 118, Mk 16:9-15

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s Gospel, St. Mark gives us a summary of the reaction of the apostles to news of the Resurrection of Jesus that we’ve been hearing throughout the week. He tells us that after Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene and sent her on a mission as the “apostle to the apostles” to tell them to go to Galilee where they would see him, she found them “mourning and weeping.” Then when she told them he was alive and she had seen him, “they did not believe.” They didn’t go to Galilee. They stayed put in their misery.
  • After this, St. Mark continues, Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, who then returned and told the apostles, “but they did not believe them either.”
  • Finally, Jesus appeared to the apostles himself, while the disciples on the road to Emmaus were briefing them. The accounts in the other three evangelists stress that Jesus wished them “shalom” or peace, that he showed them his hands and side, that he ate fish with them, helped them to see — as he showed the disciples on the road to Emmaus — that all that had happened to him was the fulfillment of a prophecy, and then eventually breathed on them the power of the Holy Spirit and gave the apostles the power in his name to bring his peace to the world through the forgiveness of sins. St. Mark, however, tells us what happened first. “While the eleven were at table, [Jesus] appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.” Jesus upbraided them because their hearts were hardened. It wasn’t that they couldn’t grasp the fact of Jesus’ resurrection after he told them about it three times before it happened and the prophets had multiply alluded to it. It’s that they didn’t want to believe what the prophets had foretold, what Jesus himself had foretold, or what Mary Magdalene and the Emmaus disciples had said to them. The reason Jesus rebuked them was not that he thought they should be gullible and believe anything anyone said, but that their hearts were hardened to the Good News. They preferred to hold onto their “mourning and weeping,” their sadness, their darkness than embrace the Good News. We’ll see the same thing happen with St. Thomas in tomorrow’s Gospel, when he’ll refuse to believe even the testimony of his fellow apostles until he would have the chance to probe Jesus’ wounds.
  • This isn’t something that afflicts only Jesus’ first followers. It’s still very much present today. Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that there are Christians who look like they’ve always come from a funeral, who live as if life is a perpetual Lent without an Easter. Rather than seeking the things that are above where Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand, they’ll keep their eyes, heads and hearts below. They’ll pick their own spiritual or emotional scabs rather than bring them for healing. They’ll nourish their resentments rather than hope, looking backward rather than forward. They’ll focus on what they don’t have rather than on what they do. They’ll obsess about their problems rather than their opportunities. Many times our hearts, too, are hardened to resurrection, to Jesus’ rising from the dead and the way he wants us to experience his risen life. Rather than coming alive with Christ, we seek the “living One among the dead,” not giving him the cooperation he needs to raise us from the dead with him. Today, with love, Jesus rebukes us for our “mourning and weeping,” for our stony hearts, for our lack of faith in what he continues to say to us through Pope Francis and through all the other emissaries he sends us with news of how he is risen, fully alive, and wants to bring us fully alive.
  • We see the contrast between hearts that are dead and stony versus hearts that are risen and alive in today’s first reading. The chief priests, Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and other members of the Sanhedrin who had arrested Peter and John had igneous hearts. They refused to believe even when the soldiers they had gotten Pilate to send to guard the tomb had told them about the resurrection. They refused to believe even when Peter and John had healed the cripple. As Jesus himself said in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16), if they didn’t accept the law and prophets, neither would they believe if a man appeared to them from the dead, as a man named Lazarus in fact did after Jesus had raised him on the fourth day (Jn 11). They tried to forbid Peter and John from ever speaking in Jesus’ name.
  • But the apostles wouldn’t be intimidated by the men who had conspired to murder Jesus. Their fearful hearts had been raised by Jesus. If not even crucifixion could extinguish life, then they knew they had nothing to fear from the threats of those whom Jesus by his resurrection had definitely answered. They replied, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” It was impossible for them not to share the good news, not to share their risen life, not to share new of Jesus. They were carrying out Jesus command, given at the end of the Gospel today, to go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature, including those who had the most hardened soil of all.
  • Likewise for us, if our hearts have truly been raised, it is impossible for us not to speak of what we’ve seen and heard, what we have touched, what we have experienced. There are many Christians who have some faith but who remain in the tombs, who remain locked up, afraid. Jesus wants to work in us the same type of transformation he worked in the apostles. He does so through his Divine Mercy, which we’re invoking yet again today. And he does us by placing his own risen Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity within us, to raise us from within from the dead, so that we might be able to witness to the world by what we say and what we do that Jesus has truly risen and that he has not only appeared to us, but lives in us. And then he sends us, like he sent the apostles, into the world world, beginning with our homes, neighborhoods, parishes, and social circles, proclaiming that he really is alive. May we respond to his grace faithfully to fulfill our mission as Peter and John and the other apostles responded to the grace of the Holy Spirit to fulfill theirs!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ACTS 4:13-21

Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”
So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 118:1 AND 14-15AB, 16-18, 19-21

R. (21a) I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
Though the LORD has indeed chastised me,
yet he has not delivered me to death.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
MK 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.
But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
Easter-Thursday