Mark 16: 15–20
In the last chapter of Mark’s gospel, we hear the Risen Lord issuing to us a solemn challenge: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” This is not so much a call for proselytizing as it is a reminder that we should want to share the wonderful gift of faith with which we have been endowed. If we realize how important this wisdom of Jesus is for ourselves, we will never tire of offering it to others.
The mysterious signs that will accompany those who believe are surely to be interpreted symbolically. The ability to cast out demons, or to speak in new languages, or to be immune to poison, or to heal the sick represent the spiritual effects of a living and dynamic faith. The positive and hopeful witness of the believer will overcome the negative and destructive influence of those forces that represent the dark and chaotic powers that constantly attempt to destroy the harmony and goodness of God’s creation.
When we recognize this symbolic interpretation of the effects of living faith in our lives, we discover that vibrant faith has the power to enable us to make the spiritual journey through life successfully. In biblical times, dangerous serpents often lay along the path of those traveling on foot. Drinking from unfamiliar wells could also lead to a fatal illness, such as a new strain of typhoid to which one had not become immune. On the spiritual journey of faith, these would represent the two most dangerous challenges to face us, namely, cynicism and despair. Our journey to God is especially threatened by a negative and destructive spirit, which contradicts the wisdom of unselfish love and makes fun of those who would live by such wisdom.
The reference to healing hands in the present text refers to the comforting and healing presence of believers who offer the ill a witness of hope that transcends all our fears of sickness and mortality. Sometimes the laying on of hands can bring recovery, but this passage refers more likely to a spiritual presence that gives ultimate encouragement to those who are fearful about the uncertainty that their illness brings to their lives. When we offer to the ill a sense of God’s presence and love, we also give them an assurance that no threat in this life can withstand the power of God’s goodness.
The ability to deal successfully with all these problems in our fragile lives comes, therefore, from the power of a loving God who can never forget or abandon us. We are told that Jesus was “taken up into heaven,” but we also hear that “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word (of the gospel) through accompanying signs.” The clear implication is that the Risen Lord, now seated at the right hand of God, is prepared to help us now more than he ever did in the days of his earthly existence. For this reason we should sing constantly, even if it is at times “in the rain.”
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.