We take something of a break from the ordinary readings of the Easter Season today as we remember and celebrate a feast in honor of St. Mark, Evangelist. St. Mark's Gospel is the oldest of the four which the Church has placed in the canon of the New Testament and bears the marks of the coming persecutions which will begin in Rome under Emperor Nero. More than any other Gospel, St. Mark accentuates the fact that following in the footsteps of Jesus as disciples means that we will have to suffer as he suffered. One Scripture scholar goes so far as to say that the shadow of the cross falls upon every chapter of this Gospel.
The vast majority of the Gospel is taken up with the passion narrative. The material that precedes it is obviously leading us to that story. Criticism of Jesus by the Jewish authorities begins already in the second chapter. In chapter three, these critics join forces with the Herodians to plot against Jesus. Before this, the two groups had been constantly at odds with one another. However, Jesus is a threat to both groups whose main concern was retaining the power that they held over the lives of the people.
The Gospel of St. Mark originated in the community of Rome. St. Mark was a scribe and associate of St. Peter as is born out in today's reading from the 1st Letter of St. Peter. There are some who believe that this is really Peter's Gospel, dictated to Mark as the Roman persecution neared. Realizing that he would probably fall victim to Nero's treachery, St. Peter may have wanted to record his own account of his life with Jesus.
For those who suffer the daily cross of disability and chronic illness, St. Mark's Gospel is a powerful reminder that the cross is part of every Christian's way of life.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator