GOOD NEWS BEATS BAD NEWS
St Mark begins his gospel with these words: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It is a stark opening and immediately addresses a situation that prompted Mark to write the gospel. That situation was the persecution of the followers of Jesus by the emperor Nero (the one who reportedly played the violin while the city burned around him).
His persecution of the Christians saw them being torn apart by lions and other wild animals as entertainment for the spectators at the Coliseum alongside gladiators fighting each other to the death. This would be around 65AD which is when the gospel of Mark was written.
Mark begins by stating he is writing about the good news of Jesus Christ because what was happening to members of the Church in Rome was anything but good news. Many, understandably, were renouncing the faith. Imagine yourself converting from paganism to belief in Christ drawn to these people by the love they showed each other and the beauty of the teaching of Jesus. Suddenly at the whim of the emperor you find you are part of a group that somehow has incurred the wrath of the emperor. You face the very real possibility of being killed for what you believe.
Again and again Mark shows the disciples of Jesus failing to see that following Jesus is not a choice that will protect you from suffering anymore than Jesus himself was protected from suffering. Mark is saying to his friends in the community of believers in Rome: what we are experiencing in our suffering at the hands of Nero is what Jesus suffered. Jesus did give his life as a ransom for the freedom of others in the way that even today we see people held in hostage situations being freed because someone else offers to take their place. St Maximilian Kolbe did this in the concentration camp where he was starved to death in place of a young married man with family.
Mark wrote to help his friends understand that even in the face of persecution and death what they believed about Jesus, the life they lived was good news not bad news. He was saying a life lived in humble service of others was better than a life where you can ride rough shod over others and have them at your beck and call (this is what James and John were desiring with the request to sit at his right and left hand). That kind of life is centred just on yourself and your importance rests on how many bow and scrape before you. Whereas with service of others because of the new life you have in Christ you need no bolstering of your ego because what can be better than knowing Jesus gave his life for you to be free and that you are loved by the Father and Spirit is at home in you.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Oct 23, 2015
|29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 18.10.2015