Feast of St. Mark
Mark believed that Jesus was coming back soon, and so he had a strong, excited faith.
Tradition holds that Mark was a friend of Peter and Paul and that he was the first bishop of Alexandria. He was the author of the first gospel, which was written approximately 30 years after Jesus' death and resurrection. At this time, the Church believed that Jesus was coming back soon. Therefore, it was important not to be distracted or concerned over things that would not matter in the long run. Everything was measured by an almost agitated state of discipleship, focused on being alert and ready for Jesus' return.
Because Mark believed in Jesus, he accepted his authority and his claim to build the kingdom of God. There is an urgency reflected in the way that Mark filled his gospel with short, quick sentences, aimed at motivating people to be faithful and prepared.
If his writing is any indication, Mark's life was characterized by the same discipleship called forth from his gospel. His belief in the imminent return of Jesus enabled him to encourage his readers to put up with suffering--after all it was not to last long. We see this reflected also in the first reading today. Because Jesus was rejected, his followers were suffering in every community. But they were to be vindicated by God, in the same way that Jesus was vindicated.
Friends of mine have shared with me their recollections of growing up in the heart of Zululand. They remember the prejudice and discrimination against the blacks--some of whom were their friends and playmates. When they grew older, they came to understand just how evil and extensive the system of Apartheid was. But in the midst of all that oppression, they were overwhelmed by the deep and continuing faith of the people. They had an unshakable belief in the power of Jesus and a conviction that evil could not win and suffering would not last.
We do not believe that Jesus is coming back tomorrow. Our proclamation of the kingdom is more complex, but our living out of discipleship is not. We must always profess the power of Jesus in the face of tyranny. We must always profess the command to love in the face of hate. This is how we prepare for Jesus’ return—whenever that may come. This is how we show ourselves ready and worthy of the kingdom that begins now, but lasts forever.