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Saint Mark the Evangelist


The Bible is filled with towering figures whose names are known around the world: Abraham, Moses, Solomon, John the Baptist, Esther, Ruth, Mary.
 
But in the stories about these familiar men and women, unnamed personalities flit in and out, such as the man who told Joseph where his brothers were tending their flocks, the lad who had “a few loaves and fishes” from which Jesus fed thousands, and the young man who fled naked into the night after the arrest of Jesus.

 
That last mysterious figure appears in the Gospel written by Mark, whom the Church honors with a feast day on April 25.
 
The writer devoted only two sentences to the elusive character: “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 into the night.’’
 
We never hear of that young man again in the scriptures, but some authorities believe that it was Mark himself.
 
What that means is the subject of speculation, because there are varying opinions about the identity of Mark, but the Catholic Church, based on evidence from ancient sources, believes that he was a follower of the apostle Peter — perhaps Peter’s interpreter in Rome. If Mark was close to Jesus’ inner circle, so to speak, that would explain his presence on the periphery of the events that began the Lord’s passion.
 
Although it is the second of four Gospels in the New Testament, Mark’s is the oldest — probably dating from around 65 A.D.
 
That’s not just a detail in the history of Christian scriptures. It is an important fact, because the appearance of the Gospel of Mark was a pivotal event.
 
Before Mark sifted through the sometimes contradictory accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the story was transmitted mostly or even entirely in oral form.
 
Thanks to Mark, it was for the first time set down in writing — presumably based on what Mark heard Peter teach in Rome — providing a reliable source for readers and for the evangelists who would follow.
 
This wasn’t only a scholarly exercise for Mark; it was an act of courage and commitment. He wrote this Gospel in a time and place, during the reign of the Emperor Nero, in which publicly declaring faith in Christ was dangerous.
 
Mark’s Gospel is not exhaustive; none of the Gospels are. But it is a clear and concise presentation of essential information about the life of ministry of Jesus.
 
Mark devotes a lot of attention to the miracles of Jesus, startling events that provoked the disciples to ask, after Jesus had calmed a storm at sea, “Who, then, is this?”
 
It was a question Jesus wanted people to ask; Mark portrays the Lord as putting it directly to his followers: “Who do you say that I am?”
 
There was no doubt in Mark’s mind, and he begins his Gospel with the proclamation that resounds across the ages: “Jesus . . . the Son of God.”
 

Prayer

Father,
you gave Saint Mark
the privilege of proclaiming your gospel.
May we profit by his wisdom
and follow Christ more faithfully.

The Liturgy of the Hours

 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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One Response to “Saint Mark the Evangelist”


 
  1. S Honora says:

    A sense of history is always helpful. It is so easy to see only through the lens of our own experience and times and miss the amazing fact that this was the first written acount on which others may have been based. Thanks.

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