Getting into the Bible can be difficult when you’ve never crossed that Rubicon. Where to begin? What does it all mean? In the next blog posts I’m going to walk us through the Gospel according to Mark. It’s the shortest of the Gospels. Mark “gets to the point,” so to speak. It’s a good foundational Gospel in order to see the framework for the other Gospels. I’m going to invite you to read sections of the Gospel and offer reflection questions. I plan on giving a few insights or “food for thought” in the posts. If you find this useful, great. My hope is that this serves as an introduction for those who have not opened up the Bible before and who feel intimidated by it all.
Step 1: Get your Bible. I’ll be using the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. If you have the New American Bible (NAB), ESV, NLT, KJV, etc. all of it can be helpful. Each translation serves its own purpose based on the intent of the translators. Sometimes there’s disagreement about words and what the best translation might be, but not as often as you’d think. A lot of times what happens is that different senses of the text get amplified by different translations. So, just get a Bible or get your Bible. No worries. Let’s get into the Bible itself before we worry too much about other stuff.
Step 2: Find the New Testament section of the Bible in your hands. There’s usually a helpful index at the beginning of the Bible. The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. Mark is the second book in the New Testament. So, turn to the Gospel of Mark.
Step 3: If I write for you to read Mark 1:1-7, that means that I’m asking you to read from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 1, verses 1 to 7. Sometimes Mark is abbreviated to simply Mk. Usually the Chapter number is a larger font than the verse number in the book itself. In my Bible, the Chapter of Mark has quite a few section headings in the first chapter, e.g. “The preaching of John the Baptist,” “The Baptism of Jesus,” “The Temptation of Jesus,” and so on. Those section headings are not original to the text, they were added later to help us during our reading. The chapters and verses themselves were added in the early Medieval Age when monks were copying the Bible; they used the chapter and verses to help remember their place in the text they were copying, and they could also use it to better organize between monasteries. Just look at the different sections of chapter one of Mark’s gospel (if your Bible does not have section headings, that’s okay) and note all that happens in just the first chapter. Mark is on the move.
Step 4: Read the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Don’t worry about “getting it,” as if there’s a quiz at the end of this blog. No need to worry about some secret message. Read it carefully and try to picture what’s being written happening in front of you.
Step 5: Get a friend to talk with about the reflection questions. Start a group of 2 to 5 people. Pray before you start the discussion. After the reflection questions are through ask each other who needs prayers for whatever need, then pray with/for one another right there in each other’s presence.
Food for Thought:
The Gospel of Mark begins with a very simple verse: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Because we are not attuned to first century mic drop moments, we miss the importance of that verse. Mark is using the language of the Roman Empire against the Roman Empire. “Gospel” was a word used to describe the declaration of victory a herald/messenger might proclaim in a Roman city after a battle. The herald would be sent (which is what the word “apostle” means, “to be sent”) to proclaim the victory of a battle and declare it “good news” or “gospel.” When Mark uses the title “Christ” with Jesus’ name, we need to remember that Christ is from a Greek word that meant both Messiah and King. And, Mark uses the title “Son of God” for “Jesus the Anointed King,” and “Son of God” was a title the Roman Emperor often used of himself on the Roman coins. So, here we have, in a matter of a few words, a bold declaration of Jesus Christ’s supremacy over the Roman Empire, his identification with God, and proclamation that a victory has already been won by this true, anointed King. Mark knew exactly what he was doing and he knew this would signal to the Roman powers that a new sheriff was in town. Don’t worry if you didn’t get that at a first read of the Gospel, I got that from a homily by Bishop Barron. There’s so many good resources out there and a lot of solid Catholic speakers who can teach us a lot about the Bible.
Notice the response of Simon, Andrew, James and John to Jesus’ call, it is immediate, no hesitation, and no second guessing. Something miraculous is happening in this graced call. In verse 16, Mark notes that Jesus “saw” them. In a sense, Jesus chose these first apostles. Then, he calls them (v. 17). Jesus calls them for a specific purpose, to catch men for the Kingdom. Jesus took what they knew - fishing - and applied it to their new mission: making converts and disciples for Jesus Christ. We can pray to receive this graced obedience to Jesus’ summons in our own life. We can also invite the Holy Spirit into our lives to help us become fishers of men according to our own vocations. You do have a vocation in the Kingdom. Jesus SEES you. Jesus CHOSE you. And Jesus CALLS you. The apostles didn’t know where they were going, but they knew who they were following, and that was enough.
Last bit for cogitation, although Jesus does not explicitly state why his ministry of deliverance and healing is wedded to his ministry of teaching and preaching, he sure does live that way. I am always shocked by the expansive, supernatural work of Jesus. Over and over again, without fail, Jesus is delivering people from evil spirits, healing the sick, raising the dead, and doing other wonderful works that glorify the Father. If Jesus remains intimately wedded to his Church, so much so that we say that we are the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:27), then why wouldn’t we see Jesus at work in, with, and through his Church (you and me) doing what he did/does? Why do we create this invisible and yet seemingly impenetrable distance between what we witness Jesus do in the Gospels and what we expect Jesus to do in his Church, in our lives, today, at Mass, when we pray, and so on and so forth?
Next time we will go through Chapter 2 of Mark’s Gospel
Fr. Jacob Bearer is a Catholic priest. He's about 6' to 6'4'' tall depending on which Convenient Store he's exiting. Although he enjoys kidney beans in chili, Fr. Jacob does not like baked beans and counts this as one of the toughest blotches on his character. He's been the administrator of SS. Edward's and Lucy's since January of 2022. Thank God for the Hatchery...this is a place where the author can share thoughts and ideas that don't quite seem right for the bulletin and won't exactly make for a homily (except for the times when the homily is posted with a sound file or used for a blog post). God bless you...and the hatchery.
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