St. Mark, the evangelist
Readings: 1 Pet 5:5b-14; Mk 16:15-20.
1/ First Reading: NAB 1 Peter 5:5 “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. 7 Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 8 Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. 10 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. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen. 12 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. 13 The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
2/ Gospel: NAB Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. 18 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.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. 20 But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
I. THEME: Be loyal with our mission of preaching the Good News.
According to the tradition, the evangelist Mark is identified with John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37; Col 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11; Phi 24). St. Peter in the first reading called Mark “his child” (1 Pet 5:13). Mark was Barnabas’ cousin “anepsios” (Col 4:10), Mary’s children. This woman was Peter’s friend, who lived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:12), and was an important member of the early church in Jerusalem. Peter came to her house after God’s angel liberated him from prison (Acts 12:12-13).
When a famine happened in 45-46 AD, Barnabas and Paul, after fulfilled their mission in Jerusalem, brought Mark with them on their journey back to Antioch (Acts 12:25). Not long after that, when they started their first missionary journey, they brought Mark with them as a helper “hupereten” (Acts 13:5). According to the syntatical analysis, Mark might help them in the preaching of the Good News. When they continued their mission from Perga to the center region of Asia Minor, Mark left them to come back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Why did Mark come back to Jerusalem, no one exactly knew the reason; some stipulated that Mark might be afraid of sufferings (Acts 15:38). Paul couldn’t forget this event, so he refused to take Mark with him in his second missionary journey. This refusal led to the separation between Paul and Barnabas, Paul continued on with his journey, Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-40). After this event (about 49-50 AD), we lost the trace of Mark in the Acts until ten years later, when Mark appeared as Paul’s companion and followed Peter at Rome.
According to Eusebius’ Church History (III,39), written about 130 AD, based on the position of an elder, Mark was an interpreter of Peter “hermeneutes,” and concisely wrote down Peter’s teaching, though not according to an order. Many supposed that the young man who ran naked from Ghetsemane garden when Jesus was seized is Mark (cf. Mk 14:51). This is possible because his mother’s house was in Jerusalem, the place where Jesus’ disciples used to visit. The day of Mark’s death isn’t certain. St. Jerome thought it was the eighth year of Nero’s reign (62-63 AD). St. Mark is the patrol saint of Alexandria, Egypt, and Venice, Italy.
1/ Reading I: The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.
1.1/ God opposes the pride, but bestows blessing on the humble: Today passage belongs to the exhortary part and the end of the First Letter of Peter. These are very important advises for all the faithful.
(1) “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” Humility is one of the important virtues which the faithful need to have; without this virtue, they are easy to fall in the devil’s trap and fail as Adam and Eve in the garden.
(2) “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” Anxieties lead people to doubt God’s love and providence and have no peace. To eliminate anxieties, people need to strongly believe in God’s providence. He shall protect those who sincerely believe in His love.
(3) “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Believing in God’s providence isn’t meant that people don’t have to work. Peter advised us to train ourselves to live temperately. In other words, people need to train for virtues in order to overcome temptations of the devil, the world and one’s own flesh.
(4) “Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” Faith needs to be tested by sufferings as gold by fire. Everyone must go through such a process to show their faith in God. The victorious is the one who is solid in his faith even though he must endure pain, suffering and even death.
1.2/ The believer’s reward is the eternal life: The faithful must suffer to test their faith before they can receive the eternal glory. St. Peter clearly said about the purpose of 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.”
God’s grace is enough for the faithful to stand firm in sufferings. When facing heavy trials, instead of complaining against God and others, the faithful need to come to God to ask for grace so that they can be firm in their faith. St Peter, also as St. Paul, firmly believed that God’s grace is enough to help the faithful to overcome all of their obstacles in life. St. Peter said, “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.”
2/ Gospel: Jesus handed over the mission of preaching the Good News to his disciples.
2.1/ Handing over his mission: Jesus 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.”
When Jesus resurrected and ascended, he fulfilled his mission of bringing salvation to humankind. Now, he handed over the mission of preaching the Good News for his disciples so that they would bring this salvation to all who are living in the world through their preaching. In order to attain salvation, people need to believe in Christ and be baptized.
2.2/ Giving his disciples power to do miracles so people shall believe in them: Jesus promised to his disciples: These signs will accompany those who believe:
(1) They will drive out demons: St. Paul expelled the devil out of a servant at Philippi (Acts 16:18).
(2) They will speak new languages: The apostles spoke all the native languages at the Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).
(3) They will avoid dangers: “They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.”
(4) They will heal: “They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” This was performed by Peter, Paul and many disciples.
“So 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.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Be loyal to God until the end isn’t easy because we must face three powerful enemies, the devil, the world and our own flesh. All of them are stronger than us.
– To overcome them, we need to train for virtues and to pray for God’s grace. We must quickly rise up after each fall and continue to go forth. Moreover, we must help each other to be loyal in our vocation.