Today we celebrate the man who did more to shape our faith than anyone but Jesus. Today we celebrate the conversation of St. Paul. Saul, was persecuting Christians when the light appeared and he heard a voice. The scriptures tell us that the others saw the light but did not hear the voice. Had we been them, on the road to Damascus, we might well have dismissed Saul's condition as "heat stroke" and hallucinations. But Saul heeded the voice and became Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. But what if he hadn't.
In today's gospel we hear Jesus tell the Eleven,
Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. (Mk 16:15)
But there is a part of the gospel most of us, I dare say, are uncomfortable with.
We believe that Gid wills the salvation of all. We believe that God makes provision for the salvation of those who "through no fault of their own" have no chance to hear the gospel. But regrading those who know the gospel and turn their back on it Jesus is clear. There are two groups of hearers according to Mk. 16:16.
The ones who hear and believe and those who hear and chose to remain unbekieving (apistesas).
The first group are saved the second condemned. We can ignore or try to wish it away all day long, but it doesn't undo the fact that this is a part of what Jesus taught. A person who knows the gospel and chooses to rejected it is condemned. The verb katakrino is a legal term. It literally means "to judge against" as opposed to a judgement in favor.
We would like to not think about this. The idea that our friends who have rejected their faith might not be in heaven with us is something we would just as soon ignore. We feel no urgency to bring them back to the faith. We tell ourselves the lie that as long as they are nice, whatever that means, God will let them in. You may choose to believe that. But that is not what Jesus taught.
Was Jesus wrong? If you are a Christian of any stripe you believe one thing for sure, Jesus is God, the second person of the trinity. And if that is true how can you dismiss any part of his teaching. Yes, it is incredibly uncomfortable.
Oh this Feast of the Conversation of St. Paul, perhaps each of us need to take more seriously the question of how do we reach out to the fallen away. What can we do to bring them back? Mark 16:16 is uncomfortable, but perhaps we need discomfort to spur us to action.