Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this He appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and He upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Mark 16:9-20

(Third Eothinon Gospel)

Christ is Risen!

Today is my 26th Anniversary of Ordination to the Holy Priesthood of the Orthodox Church. By God’s grace and despite my unworthiness, He has allowed me to serve at the Holy Altar all of these years. I humbly ask for your prayers today as I mark another year. The cross of the priesthood gets heavier, because of both our world and my own sinfulness. Please pray for me, the most unworthy of priests, today. Thank you.

Today’s Gospel is the third Eothinon Gospel, and is the completion of the Gospel of St. Mark. The fears of Mary Magdalene were both put to rest and realized. Shortly after she fled from the tomb, Jesus appeared to her. Her fears were put to rest. The message was true. He was alive. She went and told the disciples, and then her other fears were realized—they did not believe her.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus appeared to two more of them, who were walking in the country. Luke’s Gospel expands on this and we will discuss Luke’s account in an ensuing reflection. These two also told the Disciples what they had seen and they, too, were not believed.

Jesus appeared then to all eleven and He chastised them for not believing those who saw Him after He had risen, just as He said He would. His frustration with them didn’t last long. Almost immediately, He encouraged them as He told them about the great things that would happen if they had faith. They would be able to cast out demons, speak in many languages, pick up serpents, be immune to poison, and heal the sick. Indeed, the Disciples would do all these things in establishing the early church.

While Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t specifically mention the Ascension, Mark indicates that Jesus was taken up to heaven. And the response of the Disciples was to go out and preach everywhere. The Lord worked with them by enabling them to work the signs that He had told them they would be able to work in His name.

Indeed faith can accomplish incredible things. The Grace of God, which is one of the gifts that faithful people receive, allows ordinary people to do extraordinary, and allows ordinary circumstances to become extraordinary, miraculous ones. Grace is attained through faith. And faith is built through courage and encouragement. We need to take courage to hear the message and believe it. We need others to encourage us to believe and have faith in the message of Christ.

Christ has promised many things to those who believe. His promises are not only for eternal life but for this life. He has not promised us “ease” of life, but rather strength to get through the difficult things in life. He has promised us hope. He has granted us gifts of spiritual peace and love.

The more devout I am in my faith, the more encouragement I feel that I receive directly from Christ. In my moments of discouragement, when Christ feels far away, I realize that it is I who am far away from Christ. Keep hearing the message, keep encouraging others to hear the message, keep heeding the encouragement of others in hearing the message, and work with the Lord, let the Lord with you, so that you can enjoy His promises as well.

When Mary Magdalene announced the good news of the Savior’s Resurrection from the dead and His appearance, the disciples did not believe her and were reproached for their hardness of heart. But armed with signs and wonders, they were sent to preach. You, O Lord, were lifted up to the Father, the source of light, while they preached the word in all places supported by miracles. We, therefore, enlightened by them glorify Your Resurrection from the dead, O loving Lord. (Third Eothinon Doxastikon, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press, 1991)

Work with the Lord today!