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Of Pride and Opposition


“It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

It’s been a while since we’ve celebrated a Saint by way of the Liturgical Rite of the Holy Mass, what with the Lenten Season and Easter Octave having taken center stage for the last 50 or so days. But today on the Monday of the Second Week of Easter we commemorate a very special member of this most blessed communion of souls, those who loved the Lord most. For today we celebrate the Feast of the great evangelist and author of the Second Gospel, Saint Mark

Often depicted as a winged lion by Christian artists, scripture scholars tell us that although not an eyewitness of Christ’s public ministry, Saint Mark was a channel of apostolic tradition through Saint Peter, who was his primary source of information about the life of Jesus. In fact in today’s 1st Reading (1 Peter 5:5-14), the Rock of our Church refers to Mark as “his son,” a nod to the mentor/protege relationship these two men enjoyed.

There is some irony in the words of Peter today as he likens the Devil to a "roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). Little did he know that, as previously mentioned, Mark would one day be depicted as a winged lion, earning this noble distinction and representation due to his martyrdom and subsequent victory over Satan. When Mark returned to Alexandria on the heels of one of his many evangelical expeditions, the idolators of the city resented his efforts to turn the natives away from the worship of their traditional gods. In 68 AD, they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.

Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four, a mere 16 chapters in length. It portrays Jesus as a man forever on the move, constantly active. He clearly presents Jesus as the Son of God, making this assertion in the opening words of his Gospel and essentially proving it throughout the aforementioned 16 chapters via the recording of Jesus' mighty works. In the closing chapter of his Gospel, Mark captures the story of the Roman centurion who, upon seeing Jesus on the cross and breathing his last, proclaims “Truly this man was the Son of God,” a perfect bookend to his opening statement in Verse 1 of Chapter 1.

The passage chosen for Saint Mark’s Feast Day, the same chosen every year on this day (Mark 16:15-20) details Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, including his final instructions to the eleven. "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." We too are called to do the same.

"Beloved: Clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another," Peter urges those in his midst in the opening words of today's 1st Reading (1 Peter 5:5-14). For as he goes on to say "God opposes the proud, but bestows favor on the humble." To be in opposition to God is precisely where one does not want to be. “Once humility is acquired," Saint Vincent Ferrer once said, "charity will come to life like a burning flame devouring the corruption of vice and filling the heart so full, that there is no place for vanity.”

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In the story of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, it is only Mark who describes the skies as having being torn open. Matthew and Luke simply report that the sky was open. The subtle difference in Mark’s rendition is a nod to the reality of Jesus’ Baptism serving as the catalyst for his death and subsequent resurrection. He would die so that we could live, baptized in water and blood For as you may recall, at the moment of Jesus’ death, we are told that the temple veil was torn. Same verb used in both instances, the latter marking the completion of the mission, wherein Jesus humbles himself to share in our humanity. In something of a sublime paradox, Jesus' greatest moment happens within the depths of his deepest humiliation. In dying on the cross, Jesus served us in the humblest way possible (Philippians 2:8). God so loved us that he lowered himself and became one like us in order to win our love. This was for all intents and purposes the message that Peter was preaching.

I leave you with a quote from a lesser known member of the Communion of Saints, Saint Moses the Ethiopian, who gives us quite a bit to reflect upon when he points out that "You fast, but Satan does not eat. You labor fervently, but Satan never sleeps. The only dimension with which you can outperform Satan is by acquiring humility...for Satan has no humility."

Saint Mark, pray for us.

For more on the topic of humility, please visit my previous essay on the topic, which can be accessed via the link below:


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