Saturday, 7 April 2018

Easter Saturday

Readings: Acts4:13-21; Psalm 117; Mark 16:9-15

How does the gospel of Mark end? Critical editions of the text have it ending at 16:8: 'they said nothing to anybody because they were afraid'. It seems like a strange ending to the gospel which is one of the reasons why we find shorter and longer endings added in some of the early manuscripts. The passage we read today is the longer ending, a summary of the encounters the disciples had with the Risen Lord in the days after the resurrection and which are recorded more fully in the other gospels. This reading is an appropriate summary to end the first week of Eastertide.

The fact that Mark's gospel has various endings reminds us that the gospel does not end. It is a story which opens on to the lives of those who hear it. The subsequent chapters of the gospel are the life of the Church, the lives of anybody and everybody who hears its message, the lives of everybody for whom the gospel is intended.

The Never-Ending Story was a popular film some years ago. It is the story of a boy who finds a fascinating book in which, as he reads it, he discovers to his amazement that he is a character in its story. The gospel is like this. Everybody is a character in its story. The life of each human being is yet onemore chapter in the fascinating and never-ending tale of creation and salvation, of sin and grace, of promise and fulfillment.

The strange endings of Mark's gospel also bring out this point, that the resurrection is not just a happy ending to what otherwise would have been a tragic tale. It is not that we can all go back to our ordinary lives relieved that the story of Jesus had a happy ending after all. Rather, the resurrection is the opening of a new story, the beginning of a new tale. The Resurrection is a first chapter, not a last chapter or an epilogue. And it is awesome, this story of new creation (which implies a de-creation), of new life (which implies a death), of radical renewal (which implies radical change in our understanding and in our way of living).

The various endings of Mark raise questions, yes, but also confirm that something overwhelming had happened. Of what could they be sure? Of what can we be sure? There is radical change in the disciples and very soon we will hear again about the birth of the Church. There is the possibility of radical change for ourselves as the Risen Lord breathes on his disciples the Spirit who comes to work in their lives.

No wonder the women were afraid, disinclined to speak to anybody about what was for the moment simply baffling and disturbing. A journey is required to enter into what the Resurrection means and today's gospel reading makes that too very clear, a journey from disbelief and fear, through questioning and hope, to faith and joy. Everyone is not yet living happily ever after, so let us read on ...

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