In the Apostle’s Creed we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins. . .” That article of faith, the communion of saints, becomes especially significant to us on a day like today when we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. We know that God’s revelation of Himself to the world finds its perfection in the person, the life, the words, and the actions of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ. And as a result, the Christian community down through the ages and from pole to pole reads, and meditates upon, and bases its prayer on those pieces of literature that tell us about Christ, Our Lord. And they are to be found in Sacred Scripture, especially in the New Testament.
Each civilization and culture and language group studies the great landmarks of its own literature. We of the English-speaking world read Shakespeare and Milton and Wordsworth and Tennyson; the French read Moliere and Corneille; the Spanish-speaking world studies the Cid and Don Quixote; the Italians are immensely devoted to Dante and Petrarch. And in the supernatural world, the Hindus have their Upanishads; the Muslims have their Koran; the Jews have the Old Testament, and we Christians have our entire Bible, Old Testament and New as well. And today, April 25, we celebrate one of the writers of the New Testament: Saint Mark the Evangelist, the author of one of the four gospels.
The word “evangelist” means “one who brings good news.” It is used in a loose sense very commonly, but in the stricter sense, we have four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the authors to whom are ascribed the four gospels. All that we know of the life of Jesus is contained in the four gospels and the other writings of the New Testament. It is also contained by way of prophecy in the Old Testament.
Now, back to the communion of saints: we Catholics all have our favorite saints: those whose names we bear, for example; the patrons of our various nationalities, like Saint Patrick of the Irish, Saint Joan of Arc of the French, Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Mexicans, etc. But all of us should have a special place in our hearts for the apostles and the evangelists, because it is to them that we are enormously indebted for our knowledge of Jesus. In the first eucharistic prayer at Mass, we speak of “the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles.” Two of the evangelists, namely Matthew and John, were also among the twelve apostles. The other two, Mark and Luke, were not, but were closely associated with the apostles and probably knew Our Divine Lord and his mother personally. So throughout the year, the Church celebrates all twelve of the apostles and the other two evangelists. Today, Saint Mark.
As Saint Peter says so beautifully in the sixth chapter of Saint John’s gospel: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” How true! And how valid for us today as it was for them two thousand years ago. So let us rejoice in celebrating Saint Mark today. He is distant from us in time and place and culture, but in the communion of saints, he is VERY close, for from him and the other three evangelists we learn all that we need to know about Jesus—the words of eternal life. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.