Thursday, April 25, 2013

Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist

(1 Peter 5:5b-14; Mark 16:15-20)

The Gospel according to Mark represents a literary landmark.  It is not only seems to be the first of the four canonical gospels to be written, but the first gospel of any kind.  Never before had the world witnessed a pronouncement of “good news” (what “gospel” literally means) based on one man’s work, death, and glorious aftermath.  We might say that the originality and sheer wonder of Jesus’ story required a new form of literature.  As Jesus says in the same gospel, “new wineskins.”

We may enjoy reading Mark’s Gospel because it exhibits an earthiness about Jesus that is true of his Palestinian roots.  Only in Mark of the four gospels is Jesus called a carpenter.  Only Mark mentions Jesus living among wild beasts in the desert during his long pre-ministry retreat.  Only in this gospel does Jesus use both fingers and spittle at the same time to cure the deaf mute.  And only Mark quotes Jesus healing in Aramaic, his native tongue, when he tells the dead girl to arise, “Talita koum.”  Jesus is a man of his times in Mark but also one that transcends those times because of his divine mission.

For almost the entire gospel Mark treats the disciples as dim-witted and cowardly.  After Jesus feeds the five thousand and walks on water, Mark says that the disciples still do not understand.  Likewise, they abandon Jesus like thieves in the night when he is arrested in Gethsemane.  The disciples must await the grace of the resurrection in order to understand who Jesus is and to carry out his mission.  In today’s gospel passage we see them going forth charged by that grace which accompanies Jesus’ commands.  And that is where we are today – renewed and mandated to show God’s love to the world.