Monday, April 26, 2010

Mark's Gospel of Suffering

Monday, April 26, 2010 -- Week of 4 Easter
ST. MARK the EVANGELIST (transferred)

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Monday of 4 Easter (p. 961)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning)       44 (evening)
Exodus 32:1-20
Colossians 3:18 - 4:4(7-18)
Matthew 5:1-10

OR the readings for St. Mark (p. 997)
Morning Prayer:  Psalm 145;  Ecclesiasticus* 2:1-11; Acts 12:25 - 13:3
Evening Prayer:  Psalms 67, 96;  Isaiah 62:6-12;  2 Timothy 4:1-11
                                                *found in the Apocrypha

I chose the readings for St. Mark's Day

"Accept whatever befalls you,
     and in times of humiliation be patient.
For gold is tested in the fire,
     and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation."

These are words from Ben Sirach, a book of Wisdom literature in the Apocrypha, also called Ecclesiasticus.  These words seem especially appropriate for the feast day of St. Mark, (transferred from yesterday, April 25).  More than any of the other evangelists, Mark holds up the way of the cross, the path of suffering, as the model of life and obedience revealed through Jesus.  Mark doesn't dwell on Jesus' miracles and deeds of power so much as he focuses on Jesus' willingness to embrace the cross and its deep sadness. 

It seems that Mark is writing to a people who may be living through humiliation and the possibility of persecution and suffering.  For them following Christ is not a happy path leading to material blessings and enjoyable comforts.  Mark encourages his readers to persevere, or in the words of Sirach, "to accept whatever befalls you and in times of humiliation be patient." 

Life is difficult.  We often live in confusion and do not see a way through our troubles.  Such times are normal.  Jesus and the disciples have already shown us the way.  "For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him."

It is significant that in Mark's version of the crucifixion, there are no poignant and comforting scenes as some of the other evangelists offer -- no welcome to paradise for the good thief, no commending of Mary to the beloved disciple, no reigning in triumph from the cross as in John's version.  In Mark, Jesus is taunted and abused throughout.  His only words from the cross are the words of spiritual abandonment:  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."

Mark is certain that out of suffering comes life in Christ.  His gospel is an encouragement to all who live through grief, threat, trauma, and misery.  He invites all Christians to embrace our own crosses with humility and hope. 

Mark's other invitation, especially directed toward those of us who live with so much privilege, toward those of us who do not live under persecution or threat, is the invitation to orient our concern and our attention toward those who do suffer.  We are to see in them the presence of Christ. 

If we are to be faithful in our time, we must become advocates for those who suffer -- for the poor, the humiliated, the threatened, the persecuted, the marginalized.  If we are to see Christ in our own day, our eyes must be focused on those who suffer.  If we are to love Christ in our generation, we can best love Christ by loving those whose lives include hardship and difficulties.  According to Mark's Gospel, it is out of such suffering that Jesus is revealed.

Lowell

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Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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