Grace to you!
We celebrate the faith witness of Saint Mark, evangelist. His full name is John Mark. He is called different names in various places in the Acts of the Apostles. He is called Mark (Acts 15:39), John (Acts 13:5–13), or John Mark (Acts 12:12 and 15:37). So, all three refer to the same person. Some lessons from his life could encourage us in our different paths of being witnesses of the Risen Lord.
A relative of Barnabas (Col 4:10), Mark is the son of a somewhat wealthy widow, Mary, who provided food and shelter to many of the early disciples. It was in her house in Jerusalem that the early believers gathered and prayed (Acts 12:12). Recall also that it was to Mary's house that Saint Peter went after the angel miraculously rescued him from the Prison (Acts 12:11-17).
The Navarre Bible commentary (2005) suggests that Mary’s house was “the same house as the Cenacle, where our Lord celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the Holy Eucharist" (p. 42). It also claims that it "seems probable that the Garden of Olives belonged to this same Mary, which would explain Mark's presence there" (p.42). This commentary cited an early Christian text as its evidence. Some other biblical reviews seem to support these claims. Whatever may be the specifics of the evidence, the critical insight is that Mark learned from his home, his mother, the incredible disposition of service for the needs of the Gospel.
Hence, one thing that stands out to me about this great saint and early disciple is that he is one of the few who served the two princes of the apostles Paul and Peter, as well as Barnabas. We know it is not easy to serve two masters. But he served all three, and in the end, each spoke so well of his service.
He knew his place in the apostolic work, and he felt comfortable doing it. He seems to be like a producer who isn't on camera but whose job is to make the talents on scene look good. Such a role speaks of incredible humility.
We learn from tradition that when Saint Peter came to Rome, it was Mark who was his secretary and translator. Peter himself noted that Mark, who was with him in Rome, was a trusted Son and sent his greetings (1 Pet 5:13). Hence, tradition has it that the Gospel of Mark was Peter's voice scripted by the disciple Mark. Mark must be an exceedingly talented young man, and he used his intelligence to serve the less skilled Peter in proclaiming the Good News.
Don't forget the fact that he was the son of a wealthy woman. Yet it didn't get in his head. He served the apostle Peter who was poor, not even close to his social class.
Here is a great lesson. Not all must be at the forefront. Sometimes, our gifts do much good if we collaborate with others and offer what we can to build the kingdom. We know that though Mark wrote the Gospel that reflected Saint Peter’s take, the Gospel is named after Mark. It was by serving others that his glory emerged.
Nothing is better than a disposition to serve. Nothing makes for more saintly life than a commitment to service and love.
Mark is remarkable, too, as an excellent example of personal redemption. During the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, Mark accompanied them. But, being a young man, he may have been through some challenges along the way. He left Paul and Barnabas at Cyprus and returned home. He was just like many of us. Sometimes, due to some difficulties, we fail to honor our commitments to the letters.
We know his decision must have left a bad taste, at least in the mouth of Saint Paul. We read that when the time came for the second missionary journey, Barnabas still wanted the young man to follow them on the trip. Paul vehemently refused, citing his unreliability. It caused the two parties to part ways. Barnabas chose Mark and went to Cyprus, whereas Paul chose Silas and sailed through Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:36-40).
Fasttrack towards the end. You will notice that Saint Paul described Mark as the most reliable, useful companion (see 2 Tim 4:11, Col 4:10, and Philem 24). Mark was there in service of the need of the three of the most significant early missionaries. Saint Peter relied on him. So did Saint Paul. And of course, Saint Barnabas.
It tells us that there is redemption for anyone. In Mark, we celebrate the Christian spirit of service and repentance and renewal. I celebrate the incredible value of taking the backseat so the Gospel will thrive.
When next my ego, your ego wants to stand in the way of the good news, remember Saint Mark. Take the back seat so the Gospel will thrive. The flourishing of the Good news is our real blessings. And if through our modest composure this takes place, we are even more blessed.
Saint Mark, pray for us.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[April 25, Feast of Saint Mark: 1 Pt 5:5B-14; Mk 16:15-20]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.