Tuesday, 25 April 2023 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this day all of us celebrate the great Feast of one of the Four Evangelists, namely St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the writers of the Four Holy Gospels. According to Apostolic tradition, St. Mark was one of the disciples of the Lord, counted among the Seventy Disciples that the Lord sent forth to perform His work and ministry among the people, preceding His own coming and works. St. Mark followed the Lord with the other disciples and likely experienced many of the things that the Apostles had experienced themselves, in encountering the Risen Lord and in journeying together with the Apostles in their early missionary works. St. Mark was of course most well-known for his efforts in compiling together the accounts and the details of the Lord’s ministry as told and revealed by the Apostles, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote his Gospel, directed in particular to the Gentiles.

St. Mark would accompany the Apostles like St. Peter, St. Paul and others in their missionary work, according to the Acts of the Apostles and other Church and Apostolic tradition and histories. He assisted their ministry and evangelising work, and was eventually made a bishop, in becoming one of the successors of the Apostles. He went to Egypt, to the great city of Alexandria, and there he helped to establish a strong and flourishing Christian community, becoming the very first Bishop of Alexandria. He would become the first in the long line of the Bishops and eventually Patriarchs of Alexandria, one of the most senior leader throughout all Christendom. All of those faithful bishops and patriarchs traced their ministry and work back to St. Mark the Evangelist. This faithful servant of God dedicated himself and the rest of his life and work to glorify the Lord and becoming a most faithful and dedicated shepherd to his flock.

Through his efforts and works, the Church in Alexandria grew rapidly and wonderfully, already primed for that due to its large Jewish diaspora community and history of harmony and integration with the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles. From this, the Church’s efforts and works in reaching out to more and more of the people of God proliferated and grew rapidly, as many Christians, missionaries and others spread all throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, planting the seeds of the Christian faith in numerous areas and increasing the already rapidly growing rate of the early Christian Church and communities. Through the dedication showed by St. Mark and also the other disciples and missionaries, the Church continued to grow and to proliferate in its reach and size, and despite the many challenges, trials and persecutions it faced, it kept on growing, encouraged by the courage and the bravery of the Apostles and their successors, including St. Mark himself.

With regards to St. Mark, according to the Apostolic tradition, he was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero after many years of ministry and work for the greater glory of God. It was at about that same time, that the first of the very intense persecution by the Roman state and institutions were assembled against the Christian Church and all the faithful, directed by the Emperor Nero who blamed the Christians for many things, especially that of the Great Fire of Rome, which ironically, according to historical evidences, was in fact done by Nero himself. It was a time when many of the leaders of the Church endured great sufferings and martyrdom together with many among the Christian faithful, and this included St. Mark himself. Yet, despite that, the courage and dedication which St. Mark and the other dedicated servants of God had shown continued to inspire many even long after they had gone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard in our Scripture passages today, from the Epistle of St. Peter and from the Gospel of St. Mark itself, we heard the calling and the reminder for all of us the Christian faithful of the duty, obligation and calling that we have as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord, such that in all that we say and do, in our every words, actions and deeds, we should always do what is right and just before the Lord, and be humble and obedient to the will of God. We should let the Lord lead and guide us in our path, and allow His Wisdom and the Holy Spirit to guide our steps, and to encourage and strengthen us so that we do not end up falling into the traps and downfall due to our sins and inability to resist the temptations to sin. All of us should our best to strive to be faithful and to obey the Lord’s will, to do His Law and commandments even amidst the trials and challenges that may face us in our journey of life as Christians.

As we ourselves have heard from the Gospel reading passage today, the Lord Himself has said that He will always be by His disciples and all those who are faithful to Him. He has given us all various gifts, talents and opportunities, and we ought to use all of these for the good of the Church and for the people of God. The choice is really up to us whether we want to follow the Lord and to be faithful to Him, or whether we choose to follow our own steps and path, in doing whatever catches our desires and whim. The question is, what is our Christian faith is to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it just about going to Church on Sundays and attend the Mass and that is all? And some of us did not even attend the Holy Mass at all, preferring to make excuses and find ways to skip our obligations as Christians when we were perfectly capable of doing what we have been asked to do.

If that is what had actually happened to us and our lives, then we really should be ashamed, brothers and sisters in Christ. And when I said ashamed, I really mean it, as we should really see again the way how the early Church fathers, the Apostles, and those courageous missionaries and servants of God, like St. Mark the Evangelist had lived their lives most virtuously, striving to do what the Lord their God has asked and commanded them to do. They gave so much for the Lord and for His people, dedicating time and effort, and even suffered and died, and even gave their lives for the sake of the Lord. How about us then? Have we endured suffering and trials for the sake of the Lord? Or do we rather flee and abandon the Lord whenever things are not favourable to us, and come seeking Him only when we have need of Him, or when we want Him to do something for us?

That is what we should spend some time reflecting on this day, as we rejoice together on this Feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist. Let us all follow in his footsteps and in the good examples and inspiration that he and the many other disciples of the Lord, the faithful missionaries, holy men and women of God have given us. May the Risen Lord, our God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, continue guiding and strengthening us, so that all of us may come ever closer to the Holy Presence of God, and become ever more worthy and righteous in our way of life. May God bless us all, our every good works and efforts, our every ministry and interactions so that we may truly become great and wonderful beacons of His light and truth. St. Mark the Evangelist, Holy Servant of God, devoted to the end, pray for us all sinners. Amen.

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