Although Mark was not an apostle and neither saw nor met Jesus, the gospel attributed to him captures a “portrait” of Jesus and His ministry because he was among the community of believers.
Fr Steve Ransome shared these insights in the first instalment of ‘A Walk with Mark’ focusing on the Gospel of Mark, the main gospel for the current liturgical year.
The ‘Know Your Faith’ (KYF) education series started Monday, January 25 and is a collaboration between the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute (CREDI) and the Archdiocese’s office of Pastoral Planning and Development.
CREDI’s promotion of the series stated, “the faithful are invited to take the opportunity to examine closely this Evangelist and how, against the background of his times and his community, he documented the message about Jesus and His Ministry.”
Fr Steve Ransome, also Vice-rector for the Seminary St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs said his presentation would explain some of the things never heard before about the Gospel of Mark, the type of writing, influences on Mark, and the cultural landscape of the time.
Who was Mark? He sought to answer this question referencing Acts, Paul’s second letter to Timothy and letter to the Colossians which refer to “John Mark” and “Mark”. Mark is also mentioned in the Book of Peter. Through scripture, scholars noted Mark was the cousin of Barnabas.
“Mark, who we believe wrote the gospel had a direct association, a friendship, a relationship with Peter. We know that it is stated Acts of Apostles Chapter 12; we know for certain Mark accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first journey…,” Fr Ransom said. There was another missionary journey to be undertaken however: “Paul rejects the invitation of Barnabas to include John Mark”.
Paul remembers how Mark deserted the brothers in Pamphylia, modern-day Turkey and did not continue the work (Acts 15:36-39). There was a “violent quarrel” and Barnabas subsequently sailed on to Cyprus with Mark. Fr Ransome pointed out that the early Church was not without disagreements such as Peter and Paul, because humans are involved. He noted that in 2 Timothy 4-11, Mark is described by Paul as, “a useful helper in my work”.
The details provided in scripture are important because they show Mark is “a real person” as Peter, Paul and Barnabas. How can someone who has never met Jesus or been an eyewitness to His ministry produce 16 chapters which provide a “portrait”? Fr Ransome responded that Mark was an interpreter for Peter because he knew Greek very well and was an associate of Paul.
“More importantly, he lived in the community of believers who themselves would have known Jesus and who themselves would have experienced his ministry.” He added: “In that wonderful company of believers …that we refer to as ecclesia or assembly or as church, the message of the gospel was already being taught, proclaimed and spoken.”
In opening remarks, Archbishop Jason Gordon said KYF was started by the late Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp who had talks in halls across the country. He said the series was coming but this time in “digital” form. He invited the audience to take part by viewing on the different media, “Let us know our faith, let us deepen our faith, let us live our faith.”
Also addressing the opening was Director of CREDI, Dr Maria Byron. She told viewers, “When you read the gospel this year, we would like that you to do more than see text, but receive the Word. Each message should be a deeper encounter with the Word, Jesus Himself.” Byron said a Question-and-Answer period will follow the presentation and invited viewers to send in their questions and comments. There were 280 Facebook viewers live, 4,000 views afterwards, 800 views on YouTube, in addition to viewers on Trinity TV.
Head of the Office of Pastoral Development and Planning Gary Tagaille responding to questions on the new series stated via email, “The KYF Series was started in the 1980s by Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp as an event of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre to expose the faithful about the Catholic Faith.” This was held about a decade after the Second Vatican Council when focus on greater involvement of the laity in the life of the Church was taking root in the Archdiocese. A number of “strategic actions” took place: Bible studies, Better World movement, Assembly 77, Antilles School of Liturgy.
KYF was another activity and took place twice a year, with a lecture in north and the other in south, one evening per week for five to six weeks. The presenters were priests, religious and lay persons. Tagaille said, “The goal was to educate the People of God in their faith. The lectures were deep and detailed.”
Some of the early presenters included: Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp (deceased). Frs Henry Charles (deceased), Michael Cockburn, Garfield Rochard and Bishop Clyde Harvey, Dr Everard Johnston, Sr Diane Jagdeo (deceased), Linda Wyke (deceased). Tagaille said the KYF series has restarted after many years. “In this time of COVID 19 it is virtual. It will be held three times a year. Again, as the Archdiocese focuses on formation of the People of God, the KYF series will be one of the events that will be contributing to this goal.”
After participating in the three sessions the faithful are expected to have more confidence in conversing about Mark with the faith perspectives they obtained. Another benefit is for ministers and instructors preparing catechetical classes and Bible reflections. Tagaille said, “A schedule and topics will be communicated in the coming months about the other two sessions for 2021.”