When my second oldest daughter was about three years old, she developed the habit of asking for a second cookie or piece of candy when one was offered her. Upon receiving the second treat, she went immediately to her older sister and gave it to her.
Many of us are content with the one piece of candy that God gives us and never think to ask for another one to share. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus made it clear that he gave an abundance of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, not so that they would be content with being saved, but so they could share the priceless gift with others (see Mark16:15-20).
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…”
They were to be like those who received talents in the gospel parable. Instead of taking a talent and holding onto it tightly for fear of losing it, they were to be like the ambitious servants who went out quickly and invested what they had been given. Jesus went into all of Israel to announce the kingdom of God; his followers were to go beyond this and take the Gospel to the “whole world.” They were commissioned to give away what had been given them—just as my daughter did when someone gave her something.
Being formed as wise consumers, we are careful to hold on tightly to our valuables, and to give them away only if we get something better in return. Going out into the world and giving away the greatest gifts we have received, runs contrary to the mentality of our culture. And what we give away is the gift that we freely received—salvation. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” There is no better news than this, is there?
To give credibility to their message, Jesus said that certain unusual signs would accompany believers.
“…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.”
We know that Jesus was not talking symbolically. In the history of the Church, even up to and including our present day, all of these signs have taken place in the lives of real people. Though we tend to think of these signs as rare, I think Jesus intended that they be “usual” in the lives of Christians.
Remember that at Pentecost the disciples received the “real” Holy Spirit and began to do the same things Jesus did, but on a larger scale. When Jesus graced the early Christians with the power of the Holy Spirit, he released a new energy on the earth that was stronger than any destructive force we know. Even demons would submit to the name of Jesus. Serpents and poisons would be harmless in face of this Holy Spirit power. The limits of human language would be surpassed by a new level of language that we call “speaking in tongues.” And when people are plagued with various sicknesses, the power of Jesus would heal them when disciples imitated what he did in his ministry.
God in his thirst for the salvation of the world, has given us a second piece of “candy” when we were baptized. In doing so he equipped us to go out to the whole world and bring our gift to others. He gave us tools to do this work—we call them “charisms.” He promised to support us with signs and wonders.
On this feast day of St. Mark, the evangelist, we are challenged to ask ourselves, how well we are following Jesus’ command to evangelize. Am I “going out” or staying safely locked in my room? Am I letting the Holy Spirit take hold of me or am I hiding behind a cloak of fear? Am I looking eagerly for more ways to reach out to every creature I encounter, or am I hanging on tightly to my own “salvation cookie” and letting others fend for themselves? When Jesus offers me miraculous protection or the power to use his name with authority, or the charismatic gifts of tongues and healing, do I gladly receive them or turn him down?
The light of the Holy Spirit in each of us is powerful enough to overcome the darkest of nights. Let’s do all in our power to let his light shine through us.
“The favors of the Lord I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim his faithfulness” (Ps 89:2).