Feast of st. Mark
Jonah, Chapter 1, verse 9-10:
9 “I am a Hebrew,” he replied; “I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10Now the men were seized with great fear and said to him, “How could you do such a thing!”—They knew that he was fleeing from the LORD, because he had told them.
Jonah as wise as he was tried to flee the Lord, are we any wiser. We often choose the wrong path. Jonah was motivated but not by love. He wanted justice and not mercy for Nineveh. Pope Francis in a dispute recently stated that mercy is greater than justice when confronted with the sins of mankind and the churches stance. Our Lord desires to give us his mercy and we should seek it and give it as often as possible.
In the night and the day that followed the Last Supper, Jesus was betrayed by one of his own. He was delivered over to the authorities in such humiliating powerlessness that even those who thought they loved him fled. He who came to reveal to us the God who is Love, fell into the hands of loveless men. Then, before the eyes of John, the only apostle who was present at the Lord’s execution, and his mother Mary, he died an appalling death. Here at the center of the mystery of our redemption, the full measure of the “marvelous exchange” begins to be unveiled. The Son of God not only became the Son of Man, fulfilling beyond expectation the great hope contained in the psalms and the prophets. Jesus came to be the purifying flame of Love in our midst, unsettling a world that had become comfortable in its estrangement from God. He came to pour his Spirit on us and reconcile us to the Father. When St. Paul tells us that the Son of God “emptied himself”, he does not mention only Jesus’ birth. When the Son of God took on our humanity, his “exchange” with us goes all the way to the end: “Being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”. Elsewhere, St. Paul points to the same unfathomable mystery of solidarity with sinners that John the Baptist had glimpsed at the Jordan: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. When we gaze with Mary and John on Christ, who “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”, we come face to face with all the consequences of the Incarnation. In joining himself to his creation, the Son of God took on all our fate. He took on even the thirst of a world suffering its self-inflicted estrangement from God. Even death. For centuries, the faithful people of Israel thirsted for God like the dry earth. They prayed, “My throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God”. All of humanity thirsted, for by sinning, we had rejected the source of our life. We had defended ourselves against the God who is Love. Yet our suffering in “this time of God’s absence” was as nothing before the terrible cry Mary and John heard at the foot of the cross. “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst!’. The tortured, dying man thirsted for water – but also for love. He thirsted for our love, for he had come to espouse mankind to himself. And although he was “true God from true God … consubstantial with the Father,” he thirsted even for God. John could not have imagined such a use – or fulfillment – of the words of the psalms as when the Son of God cried out his thirst to his Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When John heard this, he somehow understood. Those words were written for this day. They were prayed through the centuries so that Jesus might sum up all human thirst for God, all suffering and forsakenness, in himself. These words were handed down from generation to generation so that when the Son used them to express his own thirst, suffering, and forsakenness to his Father, our words would become divine words of unbreakable, unsurpassable love. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus cried. Finally, “he bowed his head” and handed over the Spirit that bound Father and Son. He made even his death a revelation of the unbreakable communion of Love that is God. When a Roman centurion pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, John, Mary, and the centurion himself saw blood and water – a sign of Christ’s divinity and humanity – gush forth over the parched earth. The covenant was established. It would never be broken. The divine bridegroom had truly loved us “to the end”. Even the centurion, an unbeliever who knew neither the psalms nor the prophets, recognized this radiant humility and saw the glory of this love: “When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God!’”
John Mark, later known simply as Mark, was a Jew by birth. He was the son of that Mary who was proprietress of the Cenacle or "upper room" which served as the meeting place for the first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). He was still a youth at the time of the Savior's death. In his description of the young man who was present when Jesus was seized and who fled from the rabble leaving behind his "linen cloth," the second Evangelist might possibly have stamped the mark of his own identity. During the years that followed, the rapidly maturing youth witnessed the growth of the infant Church in his mother's Upper Room and became acquainted with its traditions. This knowledge he put to excellent use when compiling his Gospel. Later, we find Mark acting as a companion to his cousin Barnabas and Saul on their return journey to Antioch and on their first missionary journey. But Mark was too immature for the hardships of this type of work and therefore left them at Perge in Pamphylia to return home. As the two apostles were preparing for their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take his cousin with him. Paul, however, objected. Thereupon the two cousins undertook a missionary journey to Cyprus. Time healed the strained relations between Paul and Mark, and during the former's first Roman captivity (61-63), Mark rendered Paul valuable service (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24), and the Apostle learned to appreciate him. When in chains the second time Paul requested Mark's presence (2 Tim. 4:11). An intimate friendship existed between Mark and Peter; he played the role of Peter's companion, disciple, and interpreter. According to the common patristic opinion, Mark was present at Peter's preaching in Rome and wrote his Gospel under the influence of the prince of the apostles. This explains why incidents which involve Peter are described with telling detail (e.g., the great day at Capharnaum, 1:14f)). Little is known of Mark's later life. It is certain that he died a martyr's death as bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. His relics were transferred from Alexandria to Venice, where a worthy tomb was erected in St. Mark's Cathedral. The Gospel of St. Mark, the shortest of the four, is, above all, a Roman Gospel. It originated in Rome and is addressed to Roman, or shall we say, to Western Christianity. Another high merit is its chronological presentation of the life of Christ. For we should be deeply interested in the historical sequence of the events in our blessed Savior's life. Furthermore, Mark was a skilled painter of word pictures. With one stroke he frequently enhances a familiar scene, shedding upon it new light. His Gospel is the "Gospel of Peter," for he wrote it under the direction and with the aid of the prince of the apostles. "The Evangelist Mark is represented as a lion because he begins his Gospel in the wilderness, `The voice of one crying in the desert: Make ready the way of the Lord,' or because he presents the Lord as the unconquered King."
Patron: Against impenitence; attorneys; barristers; captives; Egypt; glaziers; imprisoned people; insect bites; lions; notaries; prisoners; scrofulous diseases; stained glass workers; struma; Diocese of Venice, Florida; Venice, Italy.
Symbols: Winged lion; fig tree; pen; book and scroll; club; barren fig tree; scroll with words Pax Tibi; winged and nimbed lion; lion.
Often Pictured as: Man writing or holding his gospel; man with a halter around his neck; lion in the desert; man with a book or scroll accompanied by a winged lion; holding a palm and book; holding a book with pax tibi Marce written on it; bishop on a throne decorated with lions; helping Venetian sailors; rescuing Christian slaves from Saracens.
Feast of St. Mark, the Patron Saint of Venice
Festival of the Blooming Rose
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