February 11, 2018

From the beginning of his Gospel, St. Mark tells us that he is going to share “the good news, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark’s Good News is described in an action-packed narrative. There is a sense of urgency to the way Mark writes, and there is a lot packed into the story of Jesus.

Over the past several weeks we have read about Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, his call of the first disciples, the healing of a man with an unclean spirit, the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, and in today’s Gospel, the healing of a leper. All of this takes place in the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel!

Next Sunday, the First Sunday of Lent, we will continue reading from the first chapter of Mark, and go back to a scene following the baptism that we skipped over a few weeks ago. We begin Lent with Jesus being driven into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. Jesus emerges from that desert experience and goes to Galilee to proclaim “the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

This message resonates with the early Christian community that St. Mark is writing for. It is a community that has seen the martyrdom of its two giants: Peter and Paul. It is a community that knows persecution and the temptation to doubt God’s presence among them. St. Mark reminds them that Jesus initiated the time of fulfillment, and that they need to continue to believe in him and his Good News.

On the Second Sunday of Lent, St. Mark gives us a glimpse of the glory to come in the Transfiguration of Jesus. We have a privileged perspective as we read of the experience of Peter, James and John, as they witness Jesus transformed and appearing with Elijah and Moses - the great prophet and the law-giver. Then, the voice from the cloud that surrounds them declares, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

Following the great vision, Jesus tells Peter, James and John not to tell anyone what they have seen, “except when the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” We have heard this direction from Jesus before. In the Gospel for today (the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time), after he cures the man with leprosy, he tells him, “See that you tell no one anything…” Last week, after driving out many demons, St. Mark tells us that Jesus did not permit “them to speak because they knew him.”

Scholars have called this direction from Jesus (and we will see it again and again), the “Messianic Secret.” Why the secret? What becomes clear is that we will really not understand what it means that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, until after the crucifixion and the resurrection. The kingdom that Jesus brings will necessarily involve suffering and death.

For persecuted Christians in the first century, and for those of us living twenty centuries later, this is a reassuring message. Whatever suffering we endure in our lives and in the life of our world, we know we do not suffer alone. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, suffers with us and leads us to the glory of the resurrection.

As we begin our Lenten journey this Wednesday, may this Good News of St. Mark point the way to the joy of Easter.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni