Please be seated for a few announcements. I imagine that these words are spoken at the end of almost every mass, every Sunday. It is those last words, the final little bit of encouragement before being sent out to live the life of discipleship. In today’s Gospel reading on the feast of St. Mark, we hear a couple of announcements right before he is taken up into heaven. Our final announcements usually involve some reminders of what is coming up during the week at the parish. Jesus calls the Eleven, reminding of the mission they had been set aside for and quite a mission it is.
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The words of Jesus promise amazing abilities for those who believe and are baptized, everything from driving out demons to drinking poison, unharmed. Amazing things but not things to be tested or treated trivially. The baptized Christian has the responsibility to use his gifts appropriately, for the glory of God. I am reminded of the Marvel comic book character Superman being told that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” This is just as true for us as it was for Superman. maybe even more for us as our abilities come from the ultimate power, the power of God. Jesus was certainly not calling his apostles to go out and start a carnival show to amaze people but rather to use the gifts given to them for bringing people to eternal salvation. They will be saved and given a place in heaven to live eternally with God.
We read also in 1 Peter:
Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:
God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:5b-7
The responsibility that we have to serve God, using our gifts is not an easy one. It appears that he saw some issues in the early church and so wrote them cautioning them that they must clothe themselves with humility. It seems that whenever I start getting a little proud of my accomplishments or abilities, God will allow me to ‘clothe myself with humility’. So, after I have embarrassed myself in whatever manner, what do I do? I can brush it off with It’s not fair or it’s not my fault. However, if I will take this opportunity to turn myself back to Jesus, to sit at the foot of the cross with all of my pride and brokenness, He can bring me back to that place where I can be an effective disciple. Only through my weakness can I be an effective disciple, kind of ironic, eh?