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By Deacon Keith Fournier

4/26/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Mark gives us an example to emulate in this new missionary age.

It is no accident that the one whom Paul felt had abandoned him early on became the one upon which he later relied for strength. It reveals for each of us the mysteries of the Christian faith.  The Christian vocation is an invitation to continually offer our freedom to God, to say yes to his invitations, persevere and be made new. We all fall down. The question is whether we get up and are strengthened along the way.  

St. Mark

St. Mark

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/26/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: evangelization, missionary, witness, St Mark, Gospels, testimony, holiness, New missionary age, New Evangelization, Year of Faith, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - Today is the Feast of Mark the Evangelist. Sometimes we forget that the Saints whom we celebrate were men and women just like you and me. They had their strengths - as well as their weaknesses. They were very human.

What made them become holy - able to be held up for us as examples to imitate, and relied upon as intercessors - was their humanity transformed by God's grace. They responded to God's invitations with their human freedom, living faith, heroic virtue and courageous perseverance in the face of great opposition and persecution. They now call us to do the same.

Mark gives us an example to emulate in this new missionary age.  

He was a cousin of Barnabas and accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. However, Mark left them when they reached Cyprus. There is speculation as to why. Maybe he was homesick? Maybe he became frightened? What is clear is that the parting pained the Apostle Paul. Yet, it also became the material out of which the Lord strengthened Mark for mission.

In addition, the relationship between Paul and mark later healed and even deepened. That is evidenced by Paul referring to Mark as a comfort in his letter to the Colossians. (Col. 4:10-11) As Paul aged he often experienced being abandoned. Yet, in his later years he specifically asked Timothy, in the second letter he wrote to him, to "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry." (2 Tim 4:11)

It is no accident that the one whom Paul felt had abandoned him early on became the one upon which he later relied for strength. It reveals for each of us the mysteries of the Christian faith.  The Christian vocation is an invitation to continually offer our freedom to God, to say yes to his invitations, persevere and be made new. We all fall down. The question is whether we get up and are strengthened along the way.  

Mark is referred to by the Apostle Peter as "my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13) in the letter he wrote to the dispersed Christians under persecution. The term of affection evidences a close apostolic relationship. He could now be relied upon. St Jerome tells us that "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, wrote down his Gospel at the request of the brethren living in Rome, according to what he had heard Peter preach".  The Gospel which bears Mark's name has as its central message the missionary mandate of the whole Church and is our Gospel passage for today's Holy Mass:

"Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. 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." (Mk. 16:15-20)

We are living in a trying time for the Church in the known world of our day. It will become even more difficult in the days ahead. "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19) Much like those early Christians, we face a similar hostility and opposition which grows more intense. This is precisely the kind of historic period which two thousand years of Christian history has shown us produces heroes and saints - and sometimes martyrs.

Before they were called Christians in Antioch, the early followers of Jesus were referred to as the Way (Acts 19, 9, 23). That was because their faith was real! It was also expressed in the way they lived their very human daily lives in the midst of an increasingly hostile culture. They were missionaries - and they knew it. So are we, no matter what our state in life or specific vocation.

In Mark's Gospel we also find the parable of the sewer and the seed. At the end of the parable Jesus explains the meaning to his disciples. That includes you and me: "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sewer sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them."

"And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people, who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

We are both the soil and the seed. The Living Word is sewn within us and we must cultivate the ground of our hearts, the center of our very identity, in order to be transformed and more fully reflect His Image and likeness. We must become the saints, missionaries, and perhaps even martyrs, of our own age. We must proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Yes, like Mark, we are very human. And, like Mark, we can become men and women upon whom the successors of the Apostles in our own hour can rely as the work of this missionary age intensifies. We are seed in the Lords holy, bloodstained hands, being spread into the world of this increasingly barren Third Millennium, where His Church is sent to bear the fruit of the kingdom. This world which he created is to be re-created in and through Jesus Christ, the first born of a new creation. (Colossians 1:15) That will not come without struggle, suffering and perseverance.

There are so other images used by Jesus to communicate this missionary mandate and explain our role in it. "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matt. 5: 13 - 16)  "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

We carry light into an age of twilight and shadow. We cannot withdraw from this world; we cannot also let the darkness overcome it. Just as there can be no disembodied spirituality worthy of the name Christian - because redemption involves the integrated human person, body, soul and spirit - so there cannot be a disembodied understanding of the missionary mandate we have as members of a Church still called to go into the whole world an proclaim the Gospel to every creature. 

These words from 1 John 4:17 remind us "As He is so are we in the world".  We are in the world with a redemptive purpose. No matter how rocky the soil of the American culture is becoming, we do not have the option of pulling out of our obligation to participate.  The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from the life of God within us.

It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread. However, the power contained within that yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough. Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but my, how it transforms that loaf!

So it is with Christians within human culture! The power within us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (See Romans 8:11)! All we are asked to do by the Lord who gave us this missionary mandate is to mix it up. We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.

By living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world we participate in bringing the world back to God. This missionary mindset has inspired great missionary ages in the past and brought extraordinary changes to entire cultures. It can once again in this hour, if we respond to the call.

The living Word has been planted within us. And now, we are the seed, the salt and the leaven for the Divine Sewer to sew in a world waiting to be reborn in Him. He spreads us in the field of the world to bear a harvest for the Kingdom to come. We are missionaries of the kingdom to come, of which the Church is a seed and a sign.

In the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva, "May Our Lord be able to use us so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world - and at the same time placed in God - we become salt, leaven and light. Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth and new life. But don't forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it. (St. Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, # 250)

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Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



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