Gathered Back

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.”
(Mark 16:9-15)

Scripture Study

Verses 9–20, commonly called the Longer Ending, do not appear in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel. Scholars are virtually unanimous in holding that these verses were not written by Mark but by a Christian of the late first or early second century who sought to fill out the abrupt ending of verse 8. Yet the Church accepts this addendum as part of the canon of inspired Scripture. The Holy Spirit’s gift of inspiration is not limited to the original writer, but encompasses each biblical book in its final edited form.

16:9–11 The author of the Longer Ending was apparently familiar with all four Gospels (or with the oral testimonies on which they were based), and compiled these verses from the resurrection accounts in Matthew, Luke, and John. Verses 9–11 are an abbreviated version of Jesus’ encounter with Mary Magdalene (John 20:11–17). Here, as in the other Gospels, it is clear that people do not simply “catch sight” of the risen Lord; rather, the Lord takes the initiative in appearing to whom he chooses. And significantly, the first person to whom he appears is a woman out of whom he had driven seven demons (Luke 8:2)—someone who by human standards might be considered the least reliable witness (like the healed demoniac of Mark 5:19–20). Mary goes to his companions with the news and finds them mourning and weeping, still limited to a this-worldly mindset in which the cross was the ultimate disaster. It does not yet enter their minds that God could have shattered the power of death itself. Predictably they fail to believe her testimony.

16:12–13 These verses seem to be drawn from Luke’s account of the disciples who meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–32). That the risen Lord appeared in another form suggests a mysterious ability to transform his bodily appearance. His risen body is such that he is not recognized until he makes himself known. In Luke’s account the disciples do not recognize Jesus until he breaks bread with them at table, an allusion to the Eucharist. Once again an eyewitness report of the resurrection meets with only skepticism in the demoralized disciples.

16:14 Finally Jesus appears to the eleven remaining disciples as they are gathered together and reprimands them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, familiar themes in the Gospel of Mark.

16:15–16 Jesus’ reproach does not invalidate the apostles’ commission but rather prepares for it. Chastened by the recognition of their own slowness to believe, now they are commissioned to proclaim the gospel to every creature. It is the same charge given at the end of Matthew’s Gospel and anticipated in the eschatological discourse. The good news is no longer limited to God’s chosen people, as it had been during Jesus’ earthly life. It is destined for all the world, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s passage Jesus commissions his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all. A great lesson of the Resurrection is that the path of salvation has been opened to everyone. Paul told us that “though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of slave…accepting even death, death on a cross.”

In a word, Jesus went all the way down, journeying into pain, despair, alienation, even godforsakenness. Why? In order to reach all of those who had wandered from God. Then, in light of the Resurrection, the first Christians came to know that, even as we run as fast as we can away from the Father, all the way to godforsakenness, we are running into the arms of the Son. The Resurrection shows that Christ can gather back to the Father everyone whom he has embraced through his suffering love.

So let us not domesticate the still stunning and disturbing message of Resurrection. Rather, let us allow it to unnerve us, change us, and set us on fire.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.