Thought for the Day – 25 April – Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter and the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist
Today we celebrate St Mark, the Evangelist, the first Gospel writer and the friend of Sts Peter and Paul, the cousin of St Barnabas and our Father in faith – our friend too, a chosen member of the Catholic Church who has gone before to show us the way. Mark knew there would be difficulties for believers in every age, for the persecution of the early Church was the beginning “of the labour pains” (13:8), since “the Gospel must first be preached to all nations” (13:10). He has given us a moving story of how God works in mysterious ways and shown us in the actions of Jesus how to be patient in our faith even in the most troubling circumstances, for “he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you” (16:7). This narrative could only have been created by someone who himself knew suffering, the pain of unfulfilled hopes and the sorrow of untimely death. His faith made him write about it. His hope makes it so convincing! Let us listen to Pope Benedict on being a Catholic today, now, in the world we live in!
Chosen: I think it is worth reflecting on this word. We are chosen. God has always known us, even before our birth, before our conception, God wanted me as a Christian, as a Catholic, He wanted me as a priest. God thought of me, He sought me among millions, among a great many, He saw me and He chose me. It was not for my merits, which were non-existent but out of His goodness; He wanted me to be a messenger of His choice, which is also always a mission, above all a mission and a responsibility for others. Chosen: we must be grateful and joyful for this event. God thought of me, he chose me as a Catholic, me, as a messenger of His Gospel, as a priest. In my opinion it is worth reflecting several times on this and coming back to this fact of His choice; He chose me, He wanted me, now I am responding.
Perhaps today we are tempted to say: we do not want to rejoice at having been chosen, for this would be triumphalism. It would be triumphalism to think that God had chosen me because I was so important. This would really be erroneous triumphalism. However, being glad because God wanted me is not triumphalism. Rather, it is gratitude and I think we should relearn this joy: God wanted me to be born in this way, into a Catholic family, he wanted me to know Jesus from the first. What a gift to be wanted by God so that I could know His face, so that I could know Jesus Christ, the human face of God, the human history of God in this world! Being joyful because He has chosen me to be a Catholic, to be in this Church of His, where subsistit Ecclesia unica; we should rejoice because God has given me this grace, this beauty of knowing the fullness of God’s truth, the joy of his love.
Chosen: a word of privilege and at the same time of humility. However “chosen” — as I said — is accompanied by the word “parepidemois”, exiles, foreigners. As Christians we are dispersed and we are foreigners: we see that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today, because it does not conform, because it is a stimulus, because it opposes the tendencies to selfishness, to materialism and to all these things.
Christians are certainly not only foreigners; we are also Christian nations, we are proud of having contributed to the formation of culture, there is a healthy patriotism, a healthy joy of belonging to a nation that has a great history of culture and of faith. Yet, as Christians, we are always also foreigners — the destiny of Abraham, described in the Letter to the Hebrews. As Christians we are, even today, also always foreigners. In the work place Christians are a minority, they find themselves in an extraneous situation; it is surprising that a person today can still believe and live like this. This is also part of our life: it is a form of being with the Crucified Christ, this being foreigners, not living in the way that everyone else lives, but living — or at least seeking to live — in accordance with His Word, very differently from what everyone says. And it is precisely this that is characteristic of Christians. They all say: “But everyone does this, why don’t I?” No, I don’t, because I want to live in accordance with God. St Augustine once said: “Christians are those who do not have their roots below, like tree, but have their roots above and they do not live this gravity in the natural downwards gravitation”. Let us pray the Lord that he help us to accept this mission of living as exiles, as a minority, in a certain sense, of living as foreigners and yet being responsible for others and, in this way, reinforcing the goodness in our world.
This is faith: touching Christ with the hand of faith, with our heart and thus entering into the power of His life, into the healing power of the Lord. And let us pray the Lord, that we may touch Him more and more, so as to be healed. Let us pray that He will not let us fall, that He too may take us by the hand and thus preserve us for true life….
LECTIO DIVINA” OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Chapel of the Seminary
Friday, 8 February 2013
St Mark, Pray for us!