April 25

St. Mark, Evangelist

First Reading: 1 Peter 5:5-14

5 Likewise, younger (Christians), be subject to the presbyters. Everyone, be clothed in humility with each other, so that"

"God is set against the arrogant, but grants the humble favor."

6 Be humbled, then, by the strong hand of God, so that you be exalted at the right time, 7 having cast all your anxiety upon him, since he is concerned about you.

8 Stay sober, stay awake. You opponent, the devil, prowls around looking for someone to swallow. 9 Stand against this (opponent), firm in faith, knowing the same challenges are faced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 But the God of every favor, the one having called you into his eternal glory in CHRIST [JESUS], (he) himself will complete, strengthen, reinvigorate, (and) set you firm, (after) suffering a little. 11 To him be strength into the ages. Amen.

12 Through Silvanus, a faithful brother as I think of him, I wrote briefly to you, encouraging and testifying this (message) to be true favor of God in which you stand. 13 She, the co-elect in Babylon, and Mark, my son, greet you. 14 Greet each other with a kiss of (unconditional) love. Peace to all of you, the ones in CHRIST.

5:4 "...younger (Christians)...presbyters..." The word "presbyters" is literally "elderly" in Greek. In other words, the young are contrasted with the old in the community. We do not know if the term "presbyter" had a literal meaning (elderly), a figurative meaning (wise), or official meaning (ordained minister). The text slightly favors the literal meaning.

"God is set against the arrogant, but grants the humble favor." This appears to be a proverb of the early Church since it also appeared in James 4:6.

5:13 "She, the co-elect in Babylon..." "She, the co-elect" referred to the local Church community. "Babylon" referred to the city of Rome.

Chapter 5 of 1 Peter addressed proper church order. 1 Peter 5:1-4 spoke to the leadership (either ordained or informal) about a proper style for pastors. 5:5-11 spoke to the congregation, particularly the neophytes. What virtues should they develop? The author of 1 Peter pointed out two: humble deference to the leadership (5:5-7) and resistance to temptation (5:8-9). Notice these two virtues meant far more than blind obedience to the dictates of the elders and opposition to popular culture. It meant peace within the community and a common face to outsiders. The reward for deference and resistance was eternal life (5:10-11).

What lacked in the congregation's virtue list is striking. Nothing was mentioned about evangelization. Spirituality had an inward focus. Resist the devil, then you will have your reward. A strong strand of eschatological thought remained, but there was no urgent call to save the souls of non-Christians. This lack has given scholars one clue that this letter was not written until long after the death of Peter (possible second century, A.D.).

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Gospel: Mark 16:15-20

15 HE said to them, "Go into the entire world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. 16 The one having believed and having been baptized will be saved, but the one not having believed will be condemned. 17 To those having believed, these signs will follow: in my name they will expel demons, in tongues they will speak new (things), 18 they will lift up snakes, if they drink something deadly, it indeed will not hurt them, on the sick they will lay hands and (the sick) will get better."

16:15 "Go into the entire world" is actually a past participle "having gone into the entire world." Since the participle modifies the imperative "proclaim," it carries the same force. Hence, it is translated as an imperative.

16:16 "will be saved . . . will be condemned" Mark inferred both actions will take place on Judgment Day.

16:17 "in tongues they will speak new (things)" The phrase can have three different meanings. First, the utterance is in a new, unintelligible language (a "charismatic utterance" as 1 Cor. 14). Second, the utterance is in a different language (a proclamation of the Good News in a language where it has not been heard before, as in Acts 2:4-11). Finally, the utterance is new to the speaker (an unexpected statement promoted by the Spirit, as Jesus promised in Matthew 10:20). Some translate this phrase as "they will speak in new tongues," which favors the first two meanings.

16:18 "it indeed will not hurt them" This phrase is emphatic because it contains a double negative ("it in no way will not hurt them").

The author began with order for traveling evangelization. "Go everywhere and preach the Good News to everyone," mirrored Jesus' own mobile ministry. The disciples were to do as Jesus did, but only on a universal scale. In fact, the ministry of Jesus became THE sign of the end times. Instead of judgment, the power of God's Word would be revealed. The Good News would be proclaimed. And evil would be rejected. Those who accepted God's Word would be saved (i.e., they would participate in these signs of the end times). But those who rejected God's Word (who refused to accept the Good News and its accompanying signs) were lost.

Mark 16:17-18 described fives signs of the end times, all done in the name of Jesus. They were:

1) expelling demons.

2) speaking new things in tongues.

3) picking up snakes (serpents).

4) not being harmed if poison is drank.

5) healing the weak.

Notice that signs 1 and 3 parallel each other. So do signs 2 and 4. Signs 1 and 3 signaled the power of the disciple over Satan. (The snake or "serpent" symbolized evil personified in the culture of Jesus.) The follower could handle or expel the Evil One in the name of Jesus.

Signs 2 and 4 signaled the power of proclaimed Word. In a culture that distrusted novelty, people would be amazed at new message God communicated through Jesus and his followers. The message could be a new revelation, a proclamation to a new (and foreign) audience, or a new prayer. No matter. Through Jesus and his followers, everyone would hear God's Word. And nothing, not even poison, would stop God's work!

Signs 1 and 2 described the work of the end times in positive terms (the good the disciples would perform). Signs 3 and 4 described the work in negative terms (the evil the followers would be free from). Sign 5 bridged the gap between the two sets of signs. The disciples would free the weak, those who were "bitten by the snake" and "poisoned." In other words, the believer would partake in the ministry of Jesus: to bring others from the powers of Satan (whether physical, spiritual, or moral evil) to the Father.

19 Then the LORD JESUS after he spoke to them was taken up into heaven and he sat on the right (hand) of God. 20 But those having gone out preached everywhere, as the Lord worked together (with them) and the Word confirmed (their preaching) through accompanying signs.

16:20 This sentence has some difficulty caused by the adverbial phrase "as the Lord worked . . . and the Word confirmed." If we first consider the beginning and the ending of the sentence, we can gain a better sense of its import. The disciples preached and performed signs (some of which were listed in 16:17-18). The signs "accompanied" or (literally) "followed after" the preaching, not in the sense of appendage but in the sense of authentication. The signs proved the power of the preaching.

Actually, the preaching and signs complimented each other. They both revealed the presence of the Risen Lord and power of God's Word. Both showed the believer and unbeliever the presence of the saving God. In this sense, the Risen Lord "worked together" with those preaching and performing signs. And God's Word "confirmed" the actions of the ministers.

The author implied a belief of the ancient Church that we moderns fail to recognize: the end times began with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. For the author, 16:19 was a logical conclusion to this beginning. The Risen Lord now reigned with the Father in heaven. They were now One. And the Father exercised his power through his Son.

Since the "name" of the Son revealed his power (that found its source in the Father), disciples who preached and healed in the name of Jesus did so because the Father willed it. These disciples were part of God's plan for salvation. They had the cooperation of the Risen Lord and the power of the Father's Word.