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A different way of being near

The ascension of the Lord is the moment of handing over the announcement of the gospel to the disciples. Having concluded his physical presence with the disciples he will be near them, from now on, in a different way. 

 It is surprising that the good news should be announced “to every creature.” The expression contains an invitation to contemplate a salvation that extends to the whole universe.  Driven by insatiable covetousness and greed, instead of acting as a gardener and caretaker of the world, people became despots and predators. When they did so, they reintroduced chaos. 

The proclamation of the gospel frees man from the conviction of being an absolute master. It makes him realise that he has no right to intervene at will on nature and to cause it to establish a new relationship, not only with others but also with the environment, plants and animals.

Mark lists five signs through which the risen Christ manifests his presence: “Those who have believed will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

It is true that the preaching of the gospel is accompanied by even extraordinary signs but these do not constitute evidence. It is a proclamation, a good news. The apostles realised that they were not to compete with magicians and soothsayers, but to bear witness that the risen Lord continued to operate in the world.

The extraordinary signs listed by Mark should be read and interpreted in the light of biblical symbolism. The prophets used these and other images to describe the messianic times and the new world. The demons represent all the forces of death found in man. These demons are not won with the use of exorcism rites, but with the power of the Word of Christ and the Spirit he gave us. 

The snakes and the poisons are often referred to in the bible as symbols of the enemies of man and life. The disciples must not be afraid. The strength they received from Christ, in fact, makes them invulnerable, “You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:19).

The concluding sentence of Mark’s gospel: “The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it” (v. 20) testifies to the belief of the first disciples of not being alone, but always having the Lord Jesus next to them. He worked miracles of salvation with them.

λ Father Fernando Armellini


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