Saint of the Day|
The earliest of the Gospels is told in almost breathless style
While not an apostle, St. Mark has close ties to them
By Tony Staley
Sunday liturgical readings in the church follow a three-year
cycle featuring primarily the Gospel of either Matthew, Mark or
Luke. This year is Cycle B, so we hear mainly from Mark.
Because record-keeping in modern day America is much different
from that in Palestine of 2000 years ago, there's much we don't
know about Mark. Instead, we must depend on tradition and some
well-reasoned assumptions. With that in mind, here's a biography
of Mark, author of the Gospel that scholars believe provided a
primary source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Mark is believed to be the son of Mary (another Mary, not the
mother of Jesus), who owned a house in Jerusalem where the
apostles stayed. He was a cousin of Barnabas and was probably a
Levite and maybe even a minor minister in the synagogue.
Some scholars think he was the young man who was nabbed while
trying to follow Jesus after his arrest, but managed to escape by
wiggling free of his garment (Mk 14:51-52).
Mark went with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch in 44 (Acts 12:25),
then to Cyprus and on Paul's first missionary journey (Acts
13:5). Mark seems to have annoyed Paul because he left him at
Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Then, Paul
refused to take him on his second journey (Acts 15:36-40).
Instead, Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:39).
Eventually, Paul and Mark were reconciled because he was with
Paul during his first imprisonment (Col 4:10).
Mark also incorporated some of Peter's teachings, plus other
sources, into his Gospel, which he wrote around 70. That Gospel
is written in a spare style, almost like a newspaper account. It
moves quickly through the events of Jesus' life as if he were
breathlessly trying to tell the Good News as rapidly as possible
to an audience of Roman Gentile Christians.
Papias (the bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor), Clement of
Alexandria and Irenaeus all called Mark the interpreter of Peter.
An early tradition says Mark was the first bishop of Alexandria,
though neither Origen nor Clement mention that. Many believe he
is the same person as John Mark (Acts 12:25) mentioned several
times in the New Testament, although the Eastern Church
identifies John Mark as the bishop of Biblos, whose feast they
observe Sept. 27.
Mark's body is said to have been brought from Alexandria and
placed in St. Mark Cathedral in Venice, where he is the city's
patron. He is represented in art by a winged lion and is a patron
of notaries. Mark died in about 74 after he was tortured for the
faith. We celebrate his feast on April 25.
We will be hearing a great deal of his Gospel this year. Why not
sit down and read the whole thing some evening?
Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, Patron Saints, Saint of the Day, Saints for Our Time and 365 Saints