Imperfect, Persevering and Resourceful Evangelists, Feast of St. Mark, April 25, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist
April 25, 2017
1 Pet 5:5-14, Ps 89, Mk 16:15-20

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • We celebrate today’s feast of St. Mark not primarily because he was the first bishop of Alexandria or even a martyr. We celebrate because he was an evangelist, likely (for lots of textual reasons) the first one to write down the account of Jesus’ life. It’s highly unlikely that when he did, he was thinking he was doing so for more than a specific audience, but he wrote it for some and instead his work, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has gone to the ends of the earth and been translated into hundreds of languages. St. Mark records Jesus’ valedictory in today’s Gospel, instructing the twelve “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” and promising that signs would accompany their words — exorcisms, healings, new languages, courage in the face of threats. St. Mark, who for a while accompanied his Uncle St. Barnabas and St. Paul and finished as Peter’s companion and assistant, as we see at the end of the first reading, detailed that as “they went forth and preached everywhere, … the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” The Lord has also accompanied the propagation of the Gospel of St. Mark, confirming the word through so many miracles of faith in the lives of saints throughout the centuries, leading many to “believe” be “baptized” and be “saved.”
  • Thinking of St. Mark, we can ponder how the Lord wants us to be similarly creative. To write down an orderly account of Jesus was something new. Jesus had never sent the apostles into a room to write letters or record parables. He sent them out verbally to preach because they themselves were part of the message. But as they were getting ready to meet the Lord anew at the end of their lives on earth, St. Mark wrote down what is likely the Gospel that Peter was accustomed to preach, using his own writing skills and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It was clearly an innovation, but one guided by the Holy Spirit, one that continues to bear extraordinary fruit. Little did St. Paul and St. John grasp that their letters would become part of our worship today. Little did St. Ignatius of Antioch grasp that his personal letters would be preserved and still guide many into the Church. Little did St. Therese think that the story of her soul, written under holy obedience, would feed multitudes and lead to her being declared a doctor of the Church. They just shared their faith and the Holy Spirit did the rest. We need to ponder this principle. Even though what we write or record or email will likely never be mentioned in the same breadth as these spiritual classics, we, just like they, never know. Whatever we write will never take the place of in person testimony, but it can certainly be of help in the preaching of the Gospel to every creature. I’m amazed at how many people from so many countries, for example, read or listen to the homilies on CatholicPreaching.com. You’ll never ceased to be amazed at how many lives will be saved and helped through the website for the Visitation Mission and the new app. So much of the new evangelization today is happening through through videos, mp3s, websites, blogs, books and so many other means. The Lord is constantly accompanying our meager efforts and confirming the words through signs of faith and other means. One action item I used to always try to inspire among parishioners would be to write their own story of a soul, the history of their life of faith, for their family members, because that writing might be what helps them to imitate their relationship with Jesus, imitate their faith, and, God-willing, follow them on the path to salvation and eternal happiness. Likewise for Sisters of Life. Your letters, your phone calls, your emails, even your thank you notes and creative cards, all can be used by the Lord, like he used St. Mark’s Gospel, to spread the faith.
  • One of the things I love most about St. Mark is that he is, for me, a saint of perseverance. Many Scripture scholars believe, legitimately, that he was writing about himself during the Passion when he said, “Now a young man followed [Jesus] wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked” (Mk 14:51-52). How would he have known this, why would he have written it, unless it were he? But even though he had fled from the Lord in his time of need as a youth, he came back. Likewise most Scripture scholars think that he is the “John Mark,” the son of Mary, in whose house in Jerusalem many of the disciples would gather for prayer (Acts 12:12), the nephew of Barnabas, who accompanied SS. Paul and Barnabas on their initial journeys (Acts 12:25 ff). But when he got to Perga in Pamphylia and saw that malaria infested swamps and the high treacherous cliffs to get to Galatia, he chickened out and returned (Acts 13:13). But eventually Barnabas found him and incorporate him into his further journeys (Acts 15:37-40). He never gave him despite his weakness, his cowardice. And we see him in today’s first reading with St. Peter to the end. No matter how many times we may have failed to live up to the Gospel, we can learn from him not to quit.
  • Another thing we can learn from him is that sometimes the most fruitful thing we can do for the Church is to assist others. He assisted Paul, Barnabas and Peter. And it was from his association with them, particularly from St. Peter, that his Gospel was born. Often our great work will be not merely assisting others but in the way that we learn from them and pass it on. We can therefore be grateful when we’re surrounded by greats. St. Peter didn’t write a Gospel. St. Paul didn’t. St. Barnabas didn’t. Mark did. God’s ways are not our ways. Today would be a great day to thank God for the people he has put into our life from whom we’ve heard the Gospel and we can ask that we will be able to pass on their witness to Christ, together with our own, to others.
  • Today as we come to worship God at Mass, having heard St. Mark’s Gospel, we ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit who inspired him to inspire us, never to give up, to profit from the witness of those he has put around us, and to use whatever we can, whatever is necessary, to become the pens with which the story of salvation in Jesus will be shared with a new generation and, if God so chooses, many generations to come.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 Pt 5:5b-14

Beloved:
Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.Be sober and vigilant.
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.
The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.
To him be dominion forever. Amen.I write you this briefly through Silvanus,
whom I consider a faithful brother,
exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.
Remain firm in it.
The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.
Greet one another with a loving kiss.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Responsorial Psalm PS 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The heavens proclaim your wonders, O LORD,
and your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can rank with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the sons of God?
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel 1 Cor 1:23a-24b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We proclaim Christ crucified;
he is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 16:15-20

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.