Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For the Feast of Saint Mark: The Evangelist's Offerings

The man who is kindly, modest, merciful and just will not keep his good works to himself but will see to it that these admirable fountains send out their streams for the good of others.
~ Saint John Chrysostom

Saint Mark the Evangelist
by Tzanes Emmanuel  in the Benaki Museum, Athens
The Acts of the Apostles and ancient tradition tell us about Saint Mark, who is often identified with John Mark, the companion of Paul and Barnabas. Originally a disciple of Saint Peter (cf. Acts 12:12), Mark became a collaborator of Saint Paul in his mission to the Gentiles, and he seems to have been with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome (cf. Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy4:11). Eusebius of Caesarea, the famed Church historian, tells us that Mark spent the final years of his life serving as the bishop of Alexandria in Egypt.
Mark is most especially celebrated as the author of the Gospel that bears his name. While he himself was not an eyewitness to the works of Jesus, he is traditionally regarded to have been the “interpreter and mouthpiece” of Saint Peter. We can be sure that Mark did not write his Gospel simply to serve as an historical summary of Jesus’ life and ministry for a Gentile community. Instead, it was given as testimony of the One who is Truth. Mark urged all his fellow Christians to be faithful and united to one another in their commitment to follow Christ. As Saint Irenaeus of Lyons has written, “The Church, which has spread everywhere, even to the ends of the earth, received the faith from the apostles and their disciples… Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice” (Treatise Against Heresies I. 10).

In the Preface of the Mass for today's Feast, the Church prays, "It is truly right and just our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give you thanks... For you have built your Church to stand firm on apostolic foundations, to be a lasting sign of your holiness on earth and offer all humanity your heavenly teaching" (Preface II of the Apostles from The Roman Missal). Mark the Evangelist is among those saints who embody the missionary mandate given by Christ to Apostles: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16: 15).

During a reflection given at the Apstolic Nunciature at Yoaundé during his journey to Cameroon and Angola (2009), His Holiness Benedict XVI reminded Africa's bishops that Saint Mark "bore witness in Africa to the death of the Son of God on the Cross--the final moment of the kenosis--and of his sovereign exalatation, in order that 'every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father' (Philippians 2:11)." The Evangelist offered his life in handing over to others the Good News that he had received from Peter and the Apostles. As a coworker of Paul and Barnabas, he urged new communities of Christians to be so committed to their faith that they would be willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel (cf. Mark 8:35-38). In a hymn composed for today's Feast, the 9th century bishop Saint Paulinus of Aquileia celebrated Mark's faith and witness when he wrote, "Blessed Mark, the Evangelical teacher, received into his heart a lovely ray of the sparkling sacred light. He became as a lamp reflecting that great light and dispelling the gloom of this world by his brilliant flame."

According to the Second Vatican Council, the Church is "in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament--a sign and sacrament of communion with God and unity among all men and women" (Lumen Gentium, 1). In order to live this mission with integrity, the Church must be what Pope Benedict called "a community of persons reconciled with God and among themselves." For us, as Christians, this reconciliation is rooted in the reality of God's merciful love and can only be expressed in the search for justice and the promotion of the dignity of every person: "The People of God believes that it is led by the Spirit of the Lord, who fills the whole world. Moved by this faith it tries to discern authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the events, the needs, and the longings which it shares with other people of our time. For faith throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal to which God has called each individual, and thus guides the mind towards solutions which are fully human" (Gaudium et Spes, 11).

Like Saint Mark, each of us has been entrusted with the ability and responsibility of proclaiming the Good News in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil and to, as Blessed John Paul II said, "to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out everyday in family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age a hope of the future glory" (Christifideles laici, 14).

A Prayer for the Feast of Saint Mark -
O God, who raised up Saint Mark, your Evangelist,
and endowed him with the grace to preach the Gospel,
grant, we pray,
that we may so profit from his teaching
as to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)

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