Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Gilded chapels and stained glass light have been the setting of my past reflections on the feast day of Saint Mark the Evangelist. But this year, there is COVID-19. It seems that nothing is left untouched by the pandemic. While this is a strange and unknown experience for us, it is not unknown to the Church.
Held in this wider context and seeking insight for today, we remember Saint Mark and the gospel attributed to him.
Mark’s gospel is marked by urgency. He employs the word “immediately” to push from scene to scene as he proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ. Pushing all the way to the cliffhanger ending, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark tells the good news with urgency, but then ends with witnesses paralyzed by fear.
Is this how it ends? (Yes, the original manuscript ends there!)
Clearly, the fearful witnesses — with God’s grace — found their way forward to share the good news of Christ with others because … we are here!
Saint Mark earns his title “Evangelist” putting generation after generation on the spot, challenging them to share the good news in the midst of hardships, wars, and plagues. And because of their witness, we are here today.
Now Mark challenges us.
Are we willing to allow the good news to go untold?
How will we witness within our life circumstances?
How will fear be an obstacle for us, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic?
For the poor, the imprisoned, the essential workers, the medical staff, and those with pre-existing medical conditions: fear is overt. For many sheltering-at-home with the family under one roof all day: fear can be covert. But fear is present: fear of suffering, hardship, and death.
If you are reading this post, it might be that your fears are hidden under a patchwork quilt of professional obligations, family activities, and a spectrum of connections and disconnections. Meeting (or missing) work or volunteer deadlines, learning to bake bread while children put clothes on the cat. Toddler meltdowns, bored but creative teenagers, sidewalk chalk drawings, and the never-ending loads of dishes and laundry. All stitched together by the worry over health, political, and economic issues.
It is important to look under this patchwork quilt to acknowledge our fear. For it leads us to question how we are coping with it. And, do our conscious (or unconscious) coping strategies align with our faith and values? How do these behaviors effect those around me?
“We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared,” Dr. Brené Brown reminds us. Positively managing our fear — through prayer, healthy lifestyle choices, generosity and acts of kindness — is an opportunity to witness and share the good news. The young ones who tug on our sleeves and sit at our tables are watching us, learning what faith looks like in times of fear and crisis.
Saint Mark urgently shares the good news that life in Christ promises not a way around suffering, hardship, and death, but a way through it.
And though there may be moments in which we feel paralyzed by fear, just as our faith ancestors did, this will not be the end of the story. With God’s grace, we too will find our way forward, as we seek to align our words and actions with our faith, day by day. And in the process, another generation will come to know and share “the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
[Collect for Saint Mark used with permission from Church Publishing.]