Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist
[Scripture Readings: 1Pt. 5: 5b-14; Mk. 16: 15-20 ]
As often as we have celebrated the feasts of the evangelists, the first thought that consistently comes to my mind is: How are we called to proclaim the gospel today? Some are called to be missionaries, preachers, teachers in various roles and other specialized ministries within the Church. Nevertheless all the members of Christ have a contribution to make in the Church's mission to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.
Everyone needs to hear the gospel and that begins with the people we live and work with, and who we meet as we go about our daily routines. There will be times when it will be appropriate, even necessary to speak out for what we believe. I suggest that more often our spreading of the gospel will be by the way we live. As the attitudes of secularism and the behavior that flows out from them become more prominent in our society, many people are becoming increasingly indifferent to the values of Christian life. Some are antagonistic toward them. Words will have little effect in these situations, and may be counter-productive. Even when we proclaim verbally what we believe, our words will carry little weight unless they are confirmed by our behavior. If our behavior contradicts our words, we would do better not to speak.
An additional challenge that we face is what seems to me to be a subtle and in some cases not so subtle debasement of language in our society. Get rich schemes and promises of easy money that flood the internet are only the most obvious examples. We are all exposed to claims and promises of commercial advertising that are not met, and in many cases cannot be met. Political campaigning is close behind and that will become more prominent as the year progresses. Unfortunately the list can go on. The result for many people is a critical reserve toward what they hear and read. In itself that is not a bad thing. However, a critical reserve can too easily degenerate into cynicism pure and simple; and cynicism in regard to the spoken and written word makes meaningful communication impossible.
Many people today are longing, in some cases desperately for the good news that the gospel brings; but for a variety of reasons they cannot or will not believe the words they hear and read. In small and probably unglamorous ways we can respond to that longing by putting our faith into practice. We cannot control how people will respond to our words or our behavior. We can and are obliged to examine our own faith and behavior, and ask if we are following in the footsteps and teaching of Jesus Christ to the best of our ability. God does not ask us to do the impossible. He does ask us to cooperate with his Holy Spirit and to rely on the guidance and support that the Holy Spirit gives us. Our part is to accept and put to use the gifts and opportunities God offers us.