Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

Readings: 1 Peter 5:5b–14; Psalm 89:2–3, 6–7, 16–17; Mark 16:15–20.

We can be rightly jealous of someone like St. Mark the Evangelist. St. Peter in the First Reading refers to him as his son, and there is a strong tradition that Mark was Peter’s secretary and possibly wrote down in his Gospel what Peter himself told to the first disciples regarding the life of Jesus. Our Lord sends the Apostles in the Gospel today to the whole world, and the Gospel of Mark was written to help the Church fulfill that mission.

Mark was not only blessed for receiving first hand testimony from the Apostles, but also because God chose to communicate his word, his Gospel, through Mark. Mark was not just a pen in Our Lord’s hands, but the communicator of a vital experience inspired and aided by God.

Let’s thank Our Lord today for giving us such a precious inheritance in the first witnesses of the faith by reading some of Mark’s Gospel and trying to put its teachings into practice.

3rd Week of Easter, Friday

Readings: Acts 9:1–20; Psalm 117; John 6:52–59.

Today’s Gospel is a key passage for the teaching on the sacrament of the Eucharist. Our Lord leaves no room for interpreting his words about being the Bread of Life as something metaphorical. It’s not just his teaching, his example, and his leadership that “nourish” us and sustain our lives; he wants to be a real food and drink that give us an unparalleled spiritual nourishment, one that will sustain us all the way to eternal life. This is not just a comfortable banquet from the larder of a generous person; it is a meal of flesh and blood that implies worship and sacrifice.

The Jews in today’s Gospel are quarreling because they know he is not just speaking metaphorically and the thought of eating another person repulses them. Once again they are trying to understand before they believe. In this case, understanding is trying to work something out in their head that cannot be worked out apart from faith. The Eucharist is something so amazing that theology had to formulate new terms to describe it on the basis of faith, such as transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ.

Pick one Church teaching today that’s hard for you to understand or accept and ask Our Lord to help you to try and process it more with faith and not so much by reason alone. You’ll be amazed what horizons faith can open to understanding something.

3rd Week of Easter, Thursday

Readings: Acts 8:26–40; Psalm 66:8–9, 16–17, 20; John 6:44–51.

Today’s readings remind us that encountering and drawing closer to God is not just an exterior process, but an interior one as well. Our Lord describes the Father as calling and teaching, but at the same time, clarifies that this doesn’t involve an external and perceptible experience of him. So how does the Father communicate? In our hearts. Somewhere in our soul something moves: an insight, an intuition, and sometimes it can be hard to distinguish this from feelings, which is why in spiritual theology a lot has been written about discernment of spirits. Often this interior communication goes beyond just feelings.

A response of faith to Christ is not born in a vacuum: something inside helps us to see he is worthy of our belief, worthy of our trust, and it’s not just our reasoning or our feelings. Sometimes the fact that we feel called to do something that we don’t want to do shows that whatever is behind it is not necessarily coming from us. A solid interior life means always listening for whatever God wants to tell us in the depths of our soul. The more we listen, the more we gain the ability to distinguish him speaking within us from our anxieties and preferences that at times can try to masquerade as God.

Let’s ask Our Lord today for the simplicity shown by Philip in the First Reading: the Holy Spirit told him to go to the desert route in the south that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza, and he went. And thanks to that interior generosity Our Lord used him to help someone understand what God was trying to tell him through Sacred Scripture, and to bring him to encounter Christ through faith and baptism. Let’s try being like Philip today: just tell the Lord, “I’m listening” and see where he leads you.

3rd Week of Easter, Wednesday

Readings: Acts 8:1b–8; Psalm 66:1–3a, 4–7a; John 6:35–40.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord invites the crowds, and invites us, to consider our path from here to eternity. We’re all going to live forever; the question is what that eternal life will be like. Our Lord wants us to live contentedly forever, and he expresses that through describing a life where we never hunger again, never thirst again. This hunger and thirst go beyond simple food and drink: contentment means we have everything we’d ever want or need.

We start on that path here and now, and Jesus doesn’t delude us: as we walk this path we’ll still hunger, still thirst. There’ll be trials and difficulties, and we will physically die sooner or later. By becoming flesh he walked that same path to encourage us from here to eternity. In the end he will raise us up, and if we believed in him we’ll live contentedly with him forever. Just as we need physical nourishment to live, he provides us with spiritual nourishment, the Eucharist, to help us along the way, to keep us strong, and to accompany us.

In the light of eternity, where we measure everything we experience in the light of forever, all the trials of this life, great and small, seem brief compared to the eternal joy that is to come. As the First Reading reminds us today, God can make good come out of the worst trials and setbacks if we believe in him. Let’s lift our gaze today from the immediate and pressing needs that surround us and consider the path that Our Lord invites us to walk with him, trusting that he’ll guide us through all of life’s ups and downs if we believe in him.

3rd Week of Easter, Tuesday

Readings: Acts 7:51–8:1a; Psalm 31:3c–4, 6, 7b, 8a, 17, 21ab; John 6:30–35.

Whenever we receive Communion we hear “the Body of Christ” and respond “Amen” without thinking much about how incredible it is that we are receiving God into our hearts under the appearance of bread. Whenever we genuflect in front of a tabernacle and that little red lamp is glowing nearby we acknowledge our faith that Our Lord is sacramentally present in the Eucharist.

Imagine the crowds hearing the teaching of the Eucharist for the first time and trying to understand it before believing in it. In today’s Gospel Jesus, like in yesterday’s Gospel, is trying to move them from thinking of ordinary bread in their stomachs to thinking of the bread of life. They’re still asking for signs as proof. They want evidence, and when we consider the teaching of the Eucharist evidence does not get us very far.

Our Lord today is asking them to go from what they understand of bread and the thought of endless bread to what they are really looking for: eternal life, not just as living forever, but as living content forever. When we consider our needs and our expectations for God to help fulfill them we can never lose sight of our ultimate need, God, and the means God has given us to fulfill it: believing in his son and receiving him as the Bread of Life. Let’s try believing today even when understanding something God teaches us is challenging, knowing he seeks our ultimate well being.