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Saint Mark, Evangelist

saint-mark-1621Repent and Believe

The evangelist Mark was a traveling companion of Peter. He recorded Peter’s sermons and stories found in the Gospel of Mark. It is clear that Mark’s Gospel was written by a masterful storyteller. Though short, this Gospel has great impact and clarity. In the opening of his Gospel he gets right to the point:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (Mark 1:9-15)

Notice that Mark’s Gospel is an action Gospel. It moves quickly and it asks us to move along with it.

Mark was a great evangelist who got right to the point. The Apostle Paul gives us a perception on the importance of evangelism when he speaks about God’s gifts to the Church:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.   (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The evangelist follows the apostles and prophets in importance. Often times they are thought of as shallow or not very sophisticated. For Mark, the Gospel was simple: Repent and believe. That is the starting point for every Christian and should be the essential message of the Church. Too many of today’s “seeker” churches have forgotten this message.

Mark was willing to risk everything for the sake of telling the Gospel message. Ultimately, he paid the price with his life. What are we willing to risk today? Jesus told His disciples:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mark 16:15-20)

Are we prepared to join Mark? What will the Lord say about our feet?

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
    together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
    the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
    you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
    before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
    the salvation of our God.   (Isaiah 52:7-10)

We are living in the last days. Evangelism is of paramount importance. There is little time for frills. At the very least we can earnestly pray for the rescue of all lost souls.

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Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

Purification of the Saints

As Christians we have a destiny. We are to become like Jesus. That is our hope. We read in today’s Epistle:

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.   (1 John 3:1-3)

John, who was a disciple so close to Jesus, understood that more was coming. Things had not yet been consummated, but they would be. Long before John, even in all his afflictions, Job cried out:

For I know my living Redeemer,
and He will stand on the dust at last.
Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet I will see God in my flesh.
I will see Him myself;
my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger.
   (Job 19:25-27)

We are going to see God in the flesh and we will recognize him. We will also be like him. That is the great promise of God in the Gospel message. But if we are not careful, we could easily lose sight of this by the many distractions of this age which are designed by Satan to bring us down. The Apostle Paul writes:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.   (1 Corinthians 13:12)

In today’s Gospel we have a clear picture of what is to come by reflecting upon one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus:

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

We see Jesus, who was not resurrected as a ghost or some disembodied spirit. He had flesh and bones. He ate food in the presence of his disciples. In other words, heaven will be real. We will have bodies. We will recognize loved ones. And we will have a body like the body of our resurrected Lord. He was resurrected in a body.

Now it is true that our bodies will be changed just as the body of Jesus was changed. He could move about in different dimensions. He was not limited by space and time. All that we cannot fully understand now. But we will. And we will be like him.

How does this transformation work, you might ask? It is a mystery. It is of God’s doing and it already has begun in our lives. The Apostle Paul writes about this transformation:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We have a role to play in this transformation. It is God’s doing, but it is ours to receive. Are we looking at the face of Jesus or are we concentrating on the world? In truth, we become who or what we worship.

We are again reminded by John:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  (1 John 3:2-3)

Our hope is in Jesus. When we focus on Jesus then our hope in him purifies us. It allows God to transform us into his likeness, from glory to glory. Jesus is pure and we also must be pure.

John goes on to say:

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.   (1 John 3:4-7)

This is the great miracle of the Gospel. Jesus not only paid the price for our sins, he also gave us the power of his Spirit to eradicate our sinful nature. We slip and fall from time to time. Though trials and temptations come our way, the Spirit of God never gives up on us just as Jesus never gives up on us. We may have been unfaithful, but God is faithful.

From Lamentations:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”   (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Let us go the distance with him. Let us walk in his path. No matter what circumstances we may be  going through in the moment,  let us, like Job, we will cry out with faith and hope:

For I know my living Redeemer,
and He will stand on the dust at last.
Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet I will see God in my flesh.
I will see Him myself;
my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger.
   (Job 19:25-27)

Amen.

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Saturday in Easter Week

192Witnesses to the Resurrection

Jesus understood the value of Christian witness to His resurrection. This testimony builds our faith. Thus, Jesus was not pleased with His disciples who had heard the testimony of the women but did not believe:

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.   (Mark 16:14-15)

The Apostles Peter and John, when they believed, became very bold in their faith. Without their witness the Church would never have survived or grown. So vital is the witness of the Christian believer that Satan will do all in his power to thwart it. We see this in today’s reading from Acts:

When the rulers and elders and scribes saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.   (Acts 4:13-21)

Today, we are called by God to be His witnesses of the resurrection. We are now the disciples of Jesus. Are we bold in our testimony? If we are then we soon discovered how much the enemy comes against us. Now in America Christians are beginning to experience persecution that only existed in others parts of the world. The persecution will become more intense. What will be our response? Will we still be able to speak of Jesus with Joy? The psalmist wrote:

Open for me the gates where the godly can go in.
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord.
    Only those who do what is right can go through it.
Lord, I will give thanks to you, because you answered me.
    You have saved me.

The stone the builders didn’t accept
    has become the most important stone of all.
The Lord has done it.
    It is wonderful in our eyes.
The Lord has done it on this day.
    Let us be joyful today and be glad.   (Psalm 118:19-24)

As our faith is tested, we will discover how deep our faith really is. Let us pray to God that He will strengthen us?

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