Feast of St. Mark
1 Peter 5: 5-14
Mark 16: 15-20
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.
Through friends in South Africa, I have had the opportunity to visit people in the heart of Zululand. I listened to their stories, and saw for myself the prejudice and discrimination against blacks. This was during the height of the Apartheid government. I also visited people in the infamous ghetto of Soweto, and I came to understand just how evil and extensive the system of apartheid was. But in the midst of all this oppression, I was continually overwhelmed by the 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. Yet our living out of discipleship is not. We must profess the power of Jesus in the face of tyranny, and his command to love in the face of hate. Whenever Jesus returns, we want to be part of the kingdom that will be his forever.