Saint Mark and the High-Stakes Game of Evangelism
As the world continues to reel and stagger in the face of the uncertainty and tragedy of the Coronavirus, the Catholic Church remains a bastion of surety and hope. This hope is of course forever rooted in the core fundamental beliefs of our faith such as the recently-celebrated Resurrection and the impending Pentecost to be sure, but this week, perhaps every bit as much as any other, we take particular solace and joy in the lives of the great Saints we memorialize by way of their Feast Days.
Tuesday we reflected on the life of the great Saint Anselm https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Saints-Scholasticism-Misguided-Desires-and-the-NFL-Draft. Thursday and Friday we celebrated two martyrs, one rather famous in the intrepid dragon-slayer Saint George, the other something of a lesser known warrior for Christ, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, who when faced with the option of execution or renouncing his faith in favor of the burgeoning Calvinist Movement that was gaining traction during the latter stages of his life said “I was born to defend the church against heresy, not spread it.” “Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.” he once said, and as we reflect upon the fact that it was his blood and the blood of all the martyrs that is indeed, to quote the Father of Latin Christianity Tertullian, the seed.of the faith, we know that Saint Fidelis and all the Saints who wear the crown of martyrdom in the Heavenly Kingdom were far from half-hearted or lukewarm in living out their faith. Eternal is their footprint, their persecutors a mere footnote. .
Today the Church celebrates the Feast Day of Saint Mark, founder of the Church of Alexandria in Egypt and author of the Gospel of Mark. With those two bullet items on his Resume, he’s certainly a lead pipe cinch for a second interview, but if that wasn’t enough, or if you’re looking for a few conversation starters during happy hour, consider the patronage of this prolific evangelist. Saint Mark is the Patron Saint of attorneys, barristers, lions, prisoners, notaries, painters, secretaries, pharmacists, the country of Egypt, the city of Venice, Italy, opticians, interpreters and yes....victims of insect bites. I found it particularly interesting that in today’s 1st Reading (1 Peter 5:5-14), the Rock of our Church warns us to be sober and vigilant in our fight against the Devil, “who is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Legend has it that Saint Mark was ultimately fed to the lions, yet another martyr whose blood was spilled so that souls could be saved. .
In the Gospel chosen for today (Mark 16:15-20), we revisit Mark’s account of the Ascension. He gets right to it, a characteristic of Mark’s Gospel, which seemingly moves at a faster pace than the other three Gospels, perhaps a nod to the life he led, forever on tbe run from his godless persecutors. “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God,” Mark tells us of Jesus as he went on in pursuit of his just and destined place at the right hand of the Father, this before giving his Apostles an enormous task, the task captured in the quote that kicks off today’s reflection. And as Jesus’ words remind us, the stakes are high. To be condemned of course refers to the eternal fires of hell, of which Saint Anthony Mary Claret once said “the natural fire that we see during this life has great power to burn and torment. Yet this is not even a shadow of the fire of Hell.” Saint Cyprian of Carthage was slightly more graphic when he said “the wicked bodies of the condemned shall simmer and blaze in those living fires.” Saint Ephrem of Syrian said “even Satan himself shudders” at the horrors of hell.
There are numerous other quotes pertaining to hell and eternal damnation, some made by those who were shown a vision of the underworld. Saint Catherine of Siena was one such Saint, and she observed “I saw the torments of hell and those of purgatory; no words can describe them. Had poor mortals the faintest idea of them, they would suffer a thousand deaths rather than undergo the least of their torments during a single day.”
I don’t know if these quotes will scare you outta hell or scare the hell outta you, but they are a reminder of our need for vigilance, a reminder of the sobering fact that there are consequences, very real and eternal consequences, tethered to our every action.
But here’s the good news. There’s a lot of good news actually, but on the heels of Divine Mercy Sunday, I can’t help but be struck by Jesus’ tireless and unending pursuit of every one of his children by way of his mercy and desire to relentlessly forgive each and every time we return to him https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Divine-Mercy-Sunday-But-First-a-Riddle.
The decisions we make regarding faith and worship are the ones which define us, both now and forever. Men and women have died for the furtherance of the faith and souls will perish for lack of it. We must not neglect the grace that God so freely and generously offers to everyone. For as Saint Wolfrand once so poignantly said, “the God who offers the sinner pardon, does not promise him tomorrow.”.