The local priest, David, likes to go rock climbing in Patagonia when he gets a break, which means he has a clear eye and a firm handshake. We get on fine. Today was the time for Mark 16:18.
This Gospel passage always brings to mind the old images of those crazed zealots who used to gather up arms full of adders and fling them about rented halls, daring the Gospel to protect them. Some were lucky. Same with poison. They drank it by the jugful.
Some were unlucky.
David didn’t linger on the reading, other than to say the snakes and poison were an exaggeration of the dangers we all face as we fight our way to the end of our journey. No argument from me.
Anyway, David and I had our usual two minutes after Mass and I said to him that maybe the reading was not meant to be exaggeration: there could be a literal truth to it.
That got his attention.
‘What say,’ said I, 'that a missionary wandering the trails of the Congo comes upon a tribe who wants to listen to the Word and and a witchdoctor who doesn’t. And what if the witchdoctor set about to poison the missionary at the first opportunity, and to be rid of God’s word and the freedom that is one of its foundations.
‘What say,’ I said to Father David, ‘if that’s where the poison doesn’t work?’