25th APRIL 2022

St. Mark, the Evangelist

MONDAY, SECOND WEEK OF EASTER (Feast of St Mark, the Evangelist)

 

1 Pt 5: 5-14;               Ps 89: 2-3, 6-7, 16-17;                       Mk 16: 15-20


 

WE CAN ALL CHANGE!

Today we are celebrating the feast of St Mark, the Evangelist. The Gospel according to Mark is the shortest of the four gospels and is generally considered to be the first written Gospel narrative. How did he compile it? Mark was not among the twelve apostles. It is usually believed that Mark was a disciple of St Peter in Rome and it seems quite plausible that Mark records what Peter preached about Jesus. We do not have any reference to Mark in the gospels, and for that reason, he is not well known.

While we read the gospel he wrote, we are not familiar with the author. Hence, I will not reflect on the readings of the day, but try to prepare a portrait of St Mark, based on the information we find in the New Testament. Mark’s name is mentioned eight times outside the gospels (four times in Acts, thrice in the letters of St Paul, and once in the letter of St Peter). He was the son of a woman householder in Jerusalem named Mary (cf. Acts 12:12), where the Christian community was gathered in prayer, when Peter joins them, after his miraculous escape from Herod’s prison.

When the apostle Paul and his colleague Barnabas set out from Antioch on their first missionary journey, they took along young Mark, who was the cousin of Barnabas (cf. Col 4:10). Just imagine what a privilege it was to be associated with these great apostles and see them in action! However, just when they had completed about one-third of the missionary journey they had planned, Mark abruptly left them and returned, not to Antioch, the point of departure and their missionary base (cf. Acts 13:1-3), but Jerusalem (cf. Acts 13:13). We are not certain why, but there are two probabilities.

  • He returned to his mother (cf. Acts 12:12), showing some sort of over-attachment to his family, and therefore was not yet ready to leave everything and follow Jesus.
  • He may have had reservations about some aspects of Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles.

Is this the end of the story? No. It only shows a moment of weakness. It portrays him as a human being like us. Even great men and women, including those who are venerated as saints in the Church, were not perfect. As human beings, they made mistakes and took wrong decisions. A few years later, Paul and Barnabas decided to embark on another missionary journey (his second). Barnabas wanted to take Mark along, but Paul objected because of the previous experience when he had deserted them midway (cf. Acts 15:38).

The sad consequence of this argument was that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. Paul got new partners, Silas (cf. Acts 13:40) and, later on, Timothy (cf. Acts 16:1-3). Barnabas went his way with John Mark to continue the evangelization of the island of Cyprus (cf. Acts 15:39). Barnabas was a native of this island (cf. Acts 4:36). Paul and Barnabas never worked together again, but years later, when Mark became more mature, he reconciled with Paul and assisted him during the latter’s first (cf. Col 4:10) and second Roman imprisonments (cf. 2 Tim 4:11). About Mark, Paul writes to Timothy: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry” (2 Tim 4:11). Thus, we observe that Mark, once a homesick youth tied to his mother’s apron strings, eventually developed into a fine apostle.

There is a great lesson here for all of us. Pessimists say that people never change. But Mark’s example proves that people can change and do change. Therefore, whatever our past mistakes may be, we can always learn important lessons and then eventually correct them. With God’s grace, everything is possible. Even in his gospel account, Mark presents the human side, of Jesus (for example, that Jesus was a carpenter – Mk 6:3; that Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled at the prospect of his death – Mk 14:33), and of the disciples (for example, their ambitions – Mk 10:35-37; falling asleep at Gethsemane – Mk 14:37), more clearly than the accounts by Matthew and Luke, and hence we can relate to them more spontaneously and easily.


Response: I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord.


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