Monday, April 25, 2016

Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

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

Encyclopedias like to describe St. Mark as the son of Mary who had a house in Jerusalem where St. Peter went after being rescued from prison.  There is an old tradition for this story, but it has no firm historical basis.  Mark, of course, was the author of what is sometimes called the “second gospel,” which only indicates its place among the four in standard Bibles.  Because it is relatively short without an infancy narrative or many parables, the work has often been overlooked as a liturgical resource.  It was hardly used in the pre-Vatican II Sunday liturgies.  But appreciation for the gospel has increased in recent decades.  It is seen today as the pioneer gospel written perhaps twenty years before its counterparts.  More importantly, its profound theology makes it one of the literary masterpieces of civilization.

All of the gospels give a unique understanding of Jesus.  Mark sees him as the suffering savior anointed by the Holy Spirit.  The second gospel describes Jesus as poorly understood by his own disciples and absolutely rejected by Jewish leaders.  Yet it emphasizes that he valiantly introduces God’s kingdom into the world by wise words and life-saving deeds.  Mark portrays Jesus’ brutal death on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice that atones for human sins as it prepares for resurrection glory.

Mark is a good place for us to start reading Scripture.  We will find many of its scenes resonant with our experience.  It says that Jesus was a worker like most of us today, at least until the time that he began his teaching mission.  One character of this gospel speaks the words that we often say to ourselves, “Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief.”  Another begs, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.”  We can thank God for this gospel and for its author whom we call “Mark.” His faith, wisdom, and literary talent have enabled us to know intimately our savior.