St Mark has a message for people on the margins

Mark begins his Gospel with the preaching of John the Baptist, a new religious voice from the riverside instead of the temple, and from there calling for change (which is the real meaning of the poorly translated word repent). Big Truth invariably comes from the edges of society, or those who have been to the edges, or the “wilderness” as it is here called ( Mark 1:3 ).

Jesus’ new reality is affirmed and announced on the margins, where people are ready to understand and to ask new questions. The establishment at the centre is seldom ready for the truth because it has too much to protect; it has bought into the system and will invariably protect the status quo. As Walter Brueggeman says, “the home of hope is hurt,” and it is seldom comfort or security.

John wore a garment of camel hair, and he lived on locusts and wild honey—surely a non-establishment costume for a son of the priestly class. John is amazingly free from his own agenda, his own religious and cultural system, and also his own ego. “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller” ( John 3:30 ), he says. John is able to point beyond himself. He’s not trying to gather people around himself—which is why he becomes the proto-evangelist. He sets the gold standard of pointing beyond himself and his own security or status—to the Mystery itself. Ministry cannot be a career decision, but an urgent vocation.

One can only conclude that Mark began in this way, not just because it was historically true, but because it mirrored his own journey. Some scholars today, especially with new information from the Gnostic Gospels, think that the anonymous man who “runs away naked” in the Garden of Gethsemane ( Mark 14:50-52 ) is very likely Mark himself. He is quietly admitting that he also “deserted him” (verse 50) and ran from suffering and humiliation. His “nakedness” is not just his but ours, too.

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  1. Mary O Vallely says:

    We have all ‘deserted him’. We have all run from suffering and humiliation at times. Mark paints a very human portrait of Jesus but he also causes us to stop and think about what it actually means to be a disciple. John’s, “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller” seems nigh impossible at times with our obsession with self. It is a struggle to live up to the name of disciple but these encouraging words of Donal Neary’s help me:-
    “But the mere fact of calling on God,
    Even in abandonment and rejection,
    Is finding God.
    In the searching is the finding,
    In the honest doubt is the root of faith,
    And nothing human is foreign to God.”

  2. The “radical calling” to follow Christ as the apostles did, is to live as Christ did….it’s a humble life and its a life where one’s only security is God. It can also be a life of rejection and humiliation. The Lord says, there are many humiliations on the road to entering the Kingdom of God…An intimate life with Christ is very much the “way of nothing”. We have only to look at the life of St. Paul……He experienced much hardship and loss in preaching the Gospel and in knowing that it was not He who lived, but Jesus Christ in Him. St. Paul didn’t call the shots in his own life. Every minute was an obedience to follow Christ. Every word and action was an obedience to speak and act in Christ. That is why, St. Paul says, “In the end, 3 things remain, Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is love…Ultimately, what we are as intimate disciples, apostles, friend and lover to Christ is Faith, Hope, and Love….doing what Christ would do in this world.

  3. Kevin Walters says:

    As a child in the fifties I would usually spend my summer holidays in Limerick, as my bed in Leeds was needed by one of my uncles, so that he could spend the summer months working in England. On one occasion, I was with a relative queuing outside a butcher shop close to the centre of Limerick, when a young priest joined the queue, I could not help noticing how clean and well turned out (nourished) he was, in comparison to the rest of us. The butcher came out of the shop and in a loud voice proclaimed “It is not right that a man of the cloth should have to wait in a queue; come forth and take the first place” (Words to that effect) the smiling young priest went forward and for his troubles also received some extra free meat (Lamb). There were murmurings within the queue from some of the women; to the effect of “I have twelve hungry children at home waiting to be feed, another “I will be lucky if I can afford a few bones” etc. As the young priest left the shop, full of hope with a kind smiling face, someone quipped, “Our next bishop” this was accompanied by sniggers, he was oblivious of what he had just done. In oblivion, our young priest had taken his first step into venality, in spiritual ignorance his pride had taken advantage of his spiritual position and unaware he had bought into the privileged classes of power and authority and in so doing he may have begun a journey of trampling on those he was meant to serve. The butcher, businessman (Man of the world) was fully aware of what he had brought about and this scenario (corruption), under different disguises, is still been re-enacted today, not just in Ireland but throughout the Western World, as our emptying churches can testify.
    As our young priest walks away, full of hope and expectation, to begin his priestly journey through life, we can reflect on what he had to contend with.
    The Seminaries that moulded this young man and others taught them that obedience to the church (Establishment) is paramount, but failed to TELL (teach) them that obedience that does not embrace TRUTH, is an easy option, as it takes away responsibility for ones actions or inactions, and that the price to pay is loss of integrity, in effect one becomes a lackey and the image of Christ in his/there sacrificial life would be lost. He would have been unaware that the Church since its earliest beginnings was at war within itself, he would not have known that some who taught him and others who would have authority over him, were waterless clouds (producers of deserts), dry trees (those who renounce good/Truth to serve evil) and dreamers (manipulators). See Epistle of Jude.
    And this obedience without Truth would enable them to prosper
    This docility (lack of vigour) to uphold the Truth has enabled those in authority to perpetuate great acts of evil, one been the cover up of the child abuse scandal, as our Shepherds embrace this truth they realize that they have been complicit (by neglect) by serving obedience before the Truth and Marks nakedness (Shame), in the article above is their nakedness (Shame) too.
    It is said that we are a work in progress and so we are.
    We can still see our young man (boy) in the butcher’s shop, his face is reflected in many of our Shepherds today, if they look out of the boat (Church) His Shepherds will see a glowing ember and a figure that they seem to know, waiting at the lake side with Peter the Man.

    Does our young priest in the butchers shop now becomes a Man?
    The truth is a burning fire it looks not at man’s desire
    Popes cower before it denuding power
    Bishops it mocks Priests defrock
    Leaders stand in disarray it’s all relative they say
    But honest it is not integrity is the loss
    The denial of goodness to make it dark is to lose one’s heart.
    To look into the living flame is to know one’s shame
    To bend one’s knee is to be set free
    A spark, to become a flame, in every mortal frame
    You the shepherds are to become as lamps
    Broken dreams can repair if with Christ we share
    We look within and acknowledge our own sin
    We bow are heads as by the Master we are led
    With cleansing grace we start to see his face
    The air becomes clear as we relinquish FEAR
    Love and clarity of thought
    Is what are suffering will have bought
    As we stand by his side his Will (peace) will reside
    We no longer struggle alone as The Master leads us home.
    Before the break of the new day
    Are lamp’s will light the way.
    God’s Word (Will) is manifest through his lovers
    God himself still speaks to mankind through his lovers

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  4. Again I must confess to the sin of envy, as having read the brilliant contribution of Kevin Walters @3, I wonder why God did not give me the gifts which he possesses. I agree with every word you write Kevin, and it resonates with me in a very special way, as much of your story, is also mine.
    I was born and reared in the 50s in Limerick, the last in a family of 8. The vast majority of the people lived in tenement houses, and back lanes, at times 12 to a house and 4 to a bed. Indoor toilets were unheard of, and food was in scarce supply. It is quite possible that my Mom was in that line of people queuing for their piece of meat. The good Priest received his lamb, but I can assure you those people in the queue were waiting to purchase the cheap cuts of meat such as, Back bones, Eye bones, Skirts and kidneys and Packet and tripe. Tuberculoses was rampant at the time and almost every home was touched by this scourge. There were two classes of people, the professional class (including Church) and the poor. As per your example the poor were always used and abused in so many different ways. One memory that stands out in my mind was when we went to the Dispensary to receive our mediccans; the Chemist would address everyone by their surnames, Gleeson, Walters, Murphy, and O Brien. No Mrs, Mr, or Miss. The Professionals knew their status in society, and we knew ours. You can be assured that their children never saw the inside of a Magdalene Laundry or Industrial school. The schooling system also did not help, as the corporal punishment to half fed children, continued to knock whatever confidence we had in us, and also ensured that we knew our place in life. All of that said there were always a few Priests, Nuns and Brothers, who were human, and gave us an education, basic in my own case, and many of my colleagues. The Church of course was all powerful, and all its rules had to be obeyed without exception. The Church as an institution was always more important than its members. This certainly was not the story only of Limerick. It was the story of all Ireland.
    Shaftsbury House, Beeston Road, Leeds. Was the only address I knew in England from my earliest years. That is where my Dad lodged for most of his life, sending home the few “Bob” every week to keep us going. He came home every 18months, and when he finally retired around ’65 and returned home for good it was strange to have almost a stranger in the house. He went to God in “68. I finally stood on the steps of Shaftsbury House, in the year 2000. It is now a listed building and boarded up.
    So that is at least some of my story Kevin, and I truly believe we have a lot in common. There is another gentleman who contributes to this site and his name is Willie Herlihy. I am sure he has a similar story to tell. Indeed every town and village in this country is connected to some city, town or village in England. That is our history.
    So much in my lifetime and many others, could suggest that the power and control the Church had over its members, was enough for us to walk away, as soon as we established ourselves in life. For me, that was never an option. Instinctively I always knew that Christ’s Church on earth was not governed as he intended. Through the ACP and this website, I am delighted to see that I am certainly on the margins, but in the majority. To those few who would continue to tell people like me to move on to another Church I would simply say, The Church that I was born into is in my D.N.A. and I will continue to make my small contribution to ensure that the dignity of each member, and equality of each member is truly established in Christ’s Church on earth. Christ, Community, Compassion, is the slogan on the Redemptorist’s Vocation’s banner, and I also believe it is the central message of the ACP.
    Again thank you Kevin, and may I borrow your method of saying farewell,
    Ger, your brother in Christ.

  5. Kevin Walters says:

    Ger Gleeson @ 4
    Thank you Ger for your generous comments to my contribution above, I could say why did God not gave me such generosity of spirit, as he gave you Ger. Like you I left school at a young age I was fifteen hardly able to read and write, today I would possible be classed as dyslexic , I also encountered Nuns and Priests who left a mark (remembrance) of their compassion within my heart and in difficult times I reflect on their empathy and humility (Honesty) and this gives consolation.
    I felt a tinge of sadness when you said” I finally stood on the steps of Shaftsbury House, in the year 2000” As it reminded me of a conversation that I had with a cousin in Limerick many years ago, I was telling him of some the exploits I had had with his Father, when he stayed with us and other members of his family (Brother/Sisters) in Leeds in the 1950s, sadness came over him and only then did I realised the loss he felt, I am sure that many children’s childhoods throughout Ireland were blighted by this necessary economic separation.
    You say “Instinctively I always knew that Christ’s Church on earth was not governed as He intended” I believe that not just those born in to the Catholic Church but also the majority of mankind would concur with your statement. Why is this? When the Holy Spirit is not seen to be working within the Church it becomes before mankind (unbelievers) just another Institution, without the Holy Spirit pastoral activity is simply social work and those Dreamers (manipulators) and Dry Trees (those that renounce good to serve evil) would have it be so. It used to be the custom for Gods Holy Word to always be written in RED, there were many good reasons for this, one been that it implies sacrifice, (I wonder who DREAMED up, the idea to change this long standing custom). Gods Word (Will) must be written on our hearts and when accepted, it enables us to walk in harmony with the Holy Spirit.

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