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Pastor's Blog

The Study of Saint Mark’s Gospel

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dear Parishioners,

The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation was the second document approved by the Bishops of Vatican Two. Prior to the Council, there never seemed to be much emphasis placed on scripture, unlike many other religions which placed great emphasis on the Word of God. Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, and the bishops pointed out that the task of authentically interpreting the word of God whether written or handed on has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church. But interest in sacred Scripture led the bishops to conclude that "through the reading and study of the sacred books let the word of the Lord run and be glorified and let the treasure of revelation entrusted to the Church increasingly fill the hearts of men."

And so a whole new world of interest and study unfolded as scripture study groups sprang up throughout the world, bible study became a common endeavor. And I mention all of this because we, too, have been influenced by this openness to the Work of God.

With the start of Ordinary time, we enter into the study of Saint Mark’s Gospel in our Sunday liturgy. Having finished with the gospel of Saint Matthew during the A Cycle of reading we enter Cycle B with Mark’s Gospel replacing that of Matthew. As a point of reference we are able to turn to the new Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, specifically to the edition on the Gospel of Saint Mark edited by Mary Healy.

The editor begins the commentary by noting that "when Mark wrote his gospel, to become a follower of Jesus was a radical decision which could mean incurring disapproval or outright rejection from friends and family. It could entail close fellowship with people one would have previously shunned, the wealthy with slaves, the devout with the formerly decadent. Jewish nationalists with Roman soldiers. And for the educated it could mean enduring the ridicule of former colleagues for the absurdity of following a carpenter from a backwater village who had suffered the most ignominious form of capital punishment, torture and death in the brutality of the Roman arena."

Quoting again from the commentary, we note that none of the Gospel authors identify themselves by name in their works, but early Christian tradition ascribed each Gospel to an author who was either an apostle or closely linked with the apostles. The heading "according to Mark" appears in the earliest manuscripts we have of the second Gospel which dates back to the third century.

Several details led us to believe the tradition that Mark’s first readers were Roman Christians. Under the Emperor Nero the church in Rome suffered brutal persecution. After blaming the Christians for the fire in 64 AD which destroyed Rome, Nero punished the Christians by crucifying them, setting them on fire and feeding them to wild beasts. Some under torture or threats, abandoned their faith or even betrayed other believers, it is to these people that Mark wrote his Gospel. We will see more of Mark’s Gospel as the weeks go on.


Fr John R. Mulvehill