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Saint Mark, Evangelist

The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to Mark

Miniature from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, Queen consort of France (1477-1514)
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Saint Mark’s Story

Most of what we know about Mark comes directly from the New Testament. He is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12. When Saint Peter escaped from prison, he went to the home of Mark’s mother.

Paul and Barnabas took him along on the first missionary journey, but for some reason Mark returned alone to Jerusalem. It is evident, from Paul’s refusal to let Mark accompany him on the second journey despite Barnabas’s insistence, that Mark had displeased Paul. Because Paul later asks Mark to visit him in prison, we may assume the trouble did not last long.

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus’s rejection by humanity while being God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah.

Evidently a friend of Mark—calling him “my son”—Peter is only one of this Gospel’s sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots), and the Church at Antioch (largely gentile).

Like another Gospel writer Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some scholars feel that the evangelist is speaking of himself when describing the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked” (Mark 14:51-52).

Others hold Mark to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint; the large basilica there is believed to contain his remains.

A winged lion is Mark’s symbol. The lion derives from Mark’s description of John the Baptist as a “voice of one crying out in the desert” (Mark 1:3), which artists compared to a roaring lion. The wings come from the application of Ezekiel’s vision of four winged creatures to the evangelists.


Reflection

Mark fulfilled in his life what every Christian is called to do: proclaim to all people the Good News that is the source of salvation. In particular, Mark’s way was by writing. Others may proclaim the Good News by music, drama, poetry, or by teaching children around a family table.


Saint Mark is the Patron Saint of:

Notaries


franciscanmedia.org


From: 1 Peter 5:5b-14

To the Faithful


[5b] Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

 

[6] Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you. [7] Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you. [8] Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. [9] Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. [10] And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish and strengthen you. [11] To Him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Epilogue


[12] By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God; stand fast in it. [13] She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. [14] Greet one another with the kiss of love.

 

Peace to all of you that are in Christ.

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Commentary:

5-11. The Apostle concludes his exhortation with a call to humility, which should express itself in complete docility in the face of the
trials God permits (verses 6-7). This last piece of advice is often found in Sacred Scripture: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22); Jesus also teaches that we should trust in God’s fatherly providence (cf. Matthew 6:19-34). “You have such care for each one of us”, St. Augustine exclaims, “as if you had no offers to care for” (”Confessions”, 3, 11).

However, abandonment in God does not mean irresponsibility, so St. Peter reminds them there is always need to be watchful against the assaults of the devil, who will pounce on us if we lower our guard (verse 8).

The description of the devil (etymologically the word means liar, detractor: cf. Revelation 12:9-10) as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour has often been taken up by the Saints. “He moves round each one of us”, St. Cyprian says, “like an enemy who has us surrounded and is checking the walls to see if there is some weak, unsecured part, where he can get in” (”De Zelo Et Livore”).

Christians “firm in the faith” will resist the attacks of the devil. The trials they suffer (cf. 1:6-7; 4:13; 5:1-4) serve to purify them
and are a pledge of the glory God will give them: “For this momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparisons” (2 Corinthians 4:17). “So great is the good that I hope for, that any pain is for me a pleasure” (St. Francis of Assisi,
“Reflections on Christ’s Wounds”, 1).

5. “You who are younger”: it is not clear whether he is addressing people who are young in age or Christians who are not “elders”
(priests), that is, lay people.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”: a quotation from Proverbs (cf. James 4:6 and note on same), containing an idea which runs right through the Old Testament (cf., e.g., Job 12:19; Psalm 18:88; 31:34) and the teachings of Christ (cf., e.g., Luke 14:11). The Blessed Virgin proclaims this truth in the “Magnificat”: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Luke 1:52).

“Humility is the source and foundation of every kind of virtue,” the Cure of Ars teaches; “it is the door by which all God-given graces
enter; it is what seasons all our actions, making them so valuable and so pleasing to God. Finally, it makes us masters of God’s heart, to the point, so to speak, of making Him our servant; for God has never been able to resist a humble heart” (”Selected Sermons”, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost).

8. For the third time, St. Peter exhorts the faithful to be sober; earlier he referred to the importance of sobriety so as to put one’s
hope in Heavenly things (1:13) and to help one to pray (4:7). Now he stresses that it puts us on guard against the devil.

Man should use the goods of this world in a balanced, temperate way, so as to avoid being ensnared by them, thereby forgetting his eternal destiny: “Detach yourself from the goods of the world. Love and practice poverty of spirit: be content with what enables you to live a simple and sober life. Otherwise, you will never be an apostle” ([St] J. Escriva, “The Way”, 631).

12. Silvanus, called Silas in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 15:22), accompanied St. Paul on his second apostolic journey through Asia Minor and Greece (cf. Acts 15:36-18:22); he was therefore well known to the Christians addressed in this letter.

From the reference St. Peter makes to him here, it is not possible to say for sure whether Silvanus was simply the bearer of the letter, or acted as an amanuensis who took down the Apostle’s dictation, or was an editor or redactor of ideas the Apostle gave him (on this subject, see the Introduction to this Letter).

13. “Babylon”: this is a symbolic way of referring to Rome, the prototype of the idolatrous and worldly city of the era. Some
centuries earlier Babylon had been the subject of severe reproaches and threats by the prophets (cf., e.g., Isaiah 13:47; Jeremiah 50-51). In the Book of Revelation Rome is also referred to by this name (cf. e.g., Revelation 17-18).

The Mark referred to is the author of the second Gospel. Tradition says that he acted as St. Peter’s interpreter in Rome. The Apostle
calls him “son”, meaning that he was spiritually his son, and implying that they had been close to each other for a long time (cf. “The
Navarre Bible: St. Mark”, pp. 56-57).

14. “The kiss of love”: St. Paul also, at the end of some of his letters, refers to the “holy kiss” (cf. Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians
16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26), a mark of supernatural charity and shared faith. With this meaning the gesture
passed into primitive eucharistic liturgy (cf. note on 1 Corinthians 16:20).

The final words, “Peace to all of you that are in Christ”, are similar to the way St. Paul ends many of his letters; since the first age of
the Church it has been used in liturgical celebrations. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, for example, ends his baptismal catechism with these words: “May the God of peace hallow you entirely, and your body and your soul remain unsullied until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (”Mystagogical Catechesis”, 5, 23).


From: Mark 16:15-20

The Apostle’s Mission


[15] And He (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. [16] He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. [17] And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

 

The Ascension


[19] So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into Heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

 

The Apostles Go Forth and Preach


[20] And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

 

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Commentary:

15. This verse contains what is called the “universal apostolic mandate” (paralleled by Matthew 28:19-20 and Luke 24:46-48). This is an imperative command from Christ to His Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world. This same apostolic mission applies, especially, to the Apostles’ successors, the bishops in communion with Peter’s successor, the Pope.

But this mission extends further: the whole “Church was founded to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the Earth for the glory of God the Father, to make all men partakers in redemption and salvation…. Every activity of the Mystical Body with this in view goes by the name of `apostolate’; the Church exercises it through all its members, though in various ways. In fact, the Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well. In the organism of a living body no member plays a purely passive part, sharing in the life of the body it shares at the same time in its activity. The same is true for the body of Christ, the Church: `the whole body achieves full growth in dependence on the full functioning of each part’ (Ephesians 4:16). Between the members of this body there exists, further, such a unity and solidarity (cf. Ephesians 4:16) that a member who does not work at the growth of the body to the extent of his possibilities must be considered useless both to the Church and to himself.

“In the Church there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission. To the Apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing in His name and by His power. But the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole people of God” (Vatican II, “Apostolicam Actuositatem”, 2).

It is true that God acts directly on each person’s soul through grace, but it must also be said that it is Christ’s will (expressed here and elsewhere) that men should be an instrument or vehicle of salvation for others.

Vatican II also teaches this: “On all Christians, accordingly, rests the noble obligation of working to bring all men throughout the whole world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation” (”ibid”., 3).

16. This verse teaches that, as a consequence of the proclamation of the Good News, faith and Baptism are indispensable pre-requisites for attaining salvation. Conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ should lead directly to Baptism, which confers on us “the first sanctifying grace, by which original sin is forgiven, and which also forgives any actual sins there may be; it remits all punishment due for these sins; it impresses on the soul the mark of the Christian; it makes us children of God, members of the Church and heirs to Heaven, and enables us to receive the other sacraments” (”St. Pius X Catechism”, 553).

Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, as we can see from these words of the Lord. But physical impossibility of receiving the rite of Baptism can be replaced by either martyrdom (called, therefore “baptism of blood”) or by a perfect act of love of God and of contrition, together with an at least implicit desire to be baptized: this is called “baptism of desire” (cf. “ibid”., 567-568).

Regarding infant Baptism, St. Augustine taught that “the custom of our Mother the Church of infant Baptism is in no way to be rejected or considered unnecessary; on the contrary, it is to be believed on the ground that it is a tradition from the Apostles” (”De Gen. ad litt”., 10, 23, 39). The new “Code of Canon Law” also stresses the need to baptize infants: “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepare for it” (Canon 867).

Another consequence of the proclamation of the Gospel, closely linked with the previous one, is that “the Church is necessary”, as Vatican II declares: “Christ is the one mediator and way of salvation; He is present to us in His body which is the Church. He Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse to enter it, or to remain in it” (”Lumen Gentium”, 14; cf. “Presbyterorum Ordinis”, 4; “Ad Gentes”, 1-3; “Dignitatis Humanae”, 11).

17-18. In the early days of the Church, public miracles of this kind happened frequently. There are numerous historical records of these events in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Acts 3:1-11; 28:3-6) and in other ancient Christian writings. It was very fitting that this should be so, for it gave visible proof or the truth of Christianity. Miracles of this type still occur, but much more seldom; they are very exceptional. This, too, is fitting because, on the one hand, the truth of Christianity has been attested to enough; and, on the other, it leaves room for us to merit through faith. St. Jerome comments: “Miracles were necessary at the beginning to confirm people in the faith. But, once the faith of the Church is confirmed, miracles are not necessary” (”Comm. in Marcum, in loc.”). However, God still works miracles through saints in every generation, including our own.

19. The Lord’s ascension into Heaven and His sitting at the right hand of the Father is the sixth article of faith confessed in the Creed. Jesus Christ went up into Heaven body and soul, to take possession of the Kingdom He won through His death, to prepare for us a place in Heaven (cf. Revelation 3:21) and to send the Holy Spirit to His Church (cf. “St. Pius X Cathechism”, 123).

To say that He “sat at the right hand of God” means that Jesus Christ, including His humanity, has taken eternal possession of Heaven and that, being the equal of His Father in that He is God, He occupies the place of highest honor beside Him in His human capacity (cf. “St. Pius V Catechism”, I, 7, 2-3). Already in the Old Testament the Messiah is spoken of as seated at the right hand of the Almighty, thereby showing the supreme dignity of Yahweh’s Annointed (cf. Psalm 110:1). The New Testament records this truth here and also in many other passages (cf. Ephesians 1:20-22; Hebrews 1:13).

As the “St. Pius V Catechism” adds, Jesus went up to Heaven by His own power and not by any other. Nor was it only as God that He ascended, but also as man.

20. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the evangelist attests that the words of Christ have already begun to be fulfilled by the time of writing. The Apostles, in other words, were faithfully carrying out the mission of our Lord entrusted to them. They begin to preach the Good News of salvation throughout the known world. Their preaching was accompanied by the signs and wonders the Lord had promised, which lent authority to their witness and their teaching. Yet, we know that their apostolic work was always hard, involving much effort, danger, misunderstanding, persecution and even martyrdom—like our Lord’s own life.

Thanks to God and also to the Apostles, the strength and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ has reached as far as us. But every Christian generation, every man and woman, has to receive the preaching of the Gospel and, in turn, pass it on. The grace of God will always be available to us: “Non est abbreviata manus Domini” (Isaiah 59:1), the power of the Lord has not diminished.