I’m leading a 3 day mission at St. Joseph Parish in snowy Keyport, New Jersey, ending Ash Wednesday. The theme of the mission is: Following Jesus Christ. Last night, we remembered how Jesus called others to follow him into the world. Parishioners read from the call of the disciples from St. John’s gospel and I spoke about the way Jesus in Mark’s gospel led his disciples into the town of Capernaum, into its synagogue, the house of Peter and then on the road where they met a leper.
Today Jesus calls us to go with him into our world, into our towns and cities, our churches, our homes and along the road where we meet the poor, the lepers of today. He’s leading us there.
In the catechesis I suggested we look again at the simple ways we were taught to pray, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father. In prayer we come know Jesus Christ. For our closing rite we held lighted candles, symbols of our baptismal call. We listened to a wonderful testimony from a couple who returned to church recently; the choir provided inspirational music. Afterwards there were refreshments in the parish hall.
Tonight we turn to the Passion story of Mark. In our catechesis I suggested reading the bible during Lent, because we can know Jesus Christ through the bible. In recent times our understanding of the bible has grown as archeologists, historians and other studies enlarge what we know of the world Jesus lived in and the early writings that tell of him. The New American Bible Revised Edition is a good choice to read because it contains the same translations read in the liturgy and its notes are up to date and well written.
Knowing more about the books of the bible can help us understand them better. For example, the Gospel of Mark, generally considered the earliest gospel, was probably written in Rome for Christians who had been shaken by a fierce, unexpected persecution under the Emperor Nero. The persecutions caused Roman Christians to question their faith in the light of this absurd injustice.
Mark’s gospel doesn’t answer their questions. Instead, it presents the innocent Jesus as he faces suffering and death holding on to a belief he is in his Father’s care. From death, he will rise again.
Tonight we read from the story of the Passion of Jesus in Mark and reflect on its meaning. We’ll also hear a testimony from one of our young parishioners here at St Joseph’s and be given a small cross as a reminder of Jesus’ words, “Take up your cross and follow me.”