The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 21, 2000 Issue
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
Compass Editor

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



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