Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist

It is fortuitous that the Feast of St. Mark falls during the season of Easter, especially given the Gospel passage we read in the liturgy on this great feast, which is St. Mark's version of the Great Commission.

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature... Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs."

Accompanying signs are important because they indicate the risen and ascended Lord's ongoing presence in and through His followers. The Holy Spirit, as New Testament scholar Luke Timothy Johnson noted, is the mode of the Christ's resurrection presence among us. It gets back to being Spirit-filled people. At our Confirmation we were marked with a sign on our foreheads through our anointing with Sacred Chrism, an anointing we are given being called by name. Do the signs of the Spirit's presence, that is, the gifts and fruits accompany us as they did the disciples?



The Gospel According to St. Mark is widely believed to be first canonical Gospel composed. It is also widely held that both the sacred authors of Matthew and Luke had St. Mark's Gospel as a common source from which derived material for their accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. This account of the Great Commission is part of the so-called "Longer Ending," which consists of verses 9-20a, the latter part of verse 20, which says, "And they reported all the instructions briefly to Peter’s companions. Afterwards Jesus himself, through them, sent forth from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. Amen," is yet another addendum to the original text, the so-called "Shorter Ending." As originally composed, The Gospel According to St. Mark ended at verse eight. Nonetheless, verses 9-20 are canonical and belong to the inspired text, which was dogmatically set forth, after the canon of Scripture was challenged by leading Protestant reformers, by the Council of Trent. That it is of apostolic origin is indicated by the fact that both the so-called "Longer" and "Shorter" endings are cited early on by Fathers of the Church, indicating these addenda were composed and added by the second century. The vocabulary and style of these verses indicate these were not composed by the original author of Mark.

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