Did you ever have some private good news that
you were bursting to share, but you had to wait for the right people, place, and time? Maybe when you became engaged, or pregnant? Maybe when you received some special award at school, or work? Perhaps after you received good news from medical tests?
When I was 16, in October of junior year in high school, I felt pretty sure that I wanted to be a priest. I told no one at that time except my mother. I trusted her to receive properly this very private news. Only in senior year, as we students began applying for colleges, did
I tell the rest of my family and friends.
Why do we delay telling private profound news until we have the right people, places, time, and context? Maybe we want to be sure of its reality; that it really will happen? Maybe we want the news to be received properly, respectfully, happily? Maybe we don't want to create
public high hopes and then have something go wrong with what we have broadcasted publicly?
Throughout the first half of the gospel of St. Mark, Jesus does not want to share the secret of his identity. A half-dozen times, he either casts out demons, or cures somebody, and he tells the people to be quiet. Twice, Jesus tells demons who had possessed people, "Be quiet."
(Mk. 1.24) or he orders "them sternly not to reveal who he was." (Mk. 3.12) After healing a 12 year old girl, "Jesus enjoined the crowd strictly not to let anyone know about it." (5.43) After having healing a deaf-mute man, "Jesus enjoined them strictly not to tell anyone, but the more he ordered them
not to, the more they proclaimed it." (7.36) Jesus healed a blind man, and "sent him home with the admonition, "Do not even go into the village." (8.26) Jesus even asks his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" Peter replies, "You are the Messiah." The next verse reads, "Jesus gave them strict
orders not to tell anyone about himself." (8.30)
Interesting, isn't it? Why would Jesus want to keep quiet his identity? Did he think people would see him not as he intended the Messiah to be, i.e., a suffering Servant, who follows God's will even to dying on the cross to gain salvation for all people? Did Jesus think the
people would interpret the Messiah as a miracle-worker, a healer of bodies, instead of a healer of souls? Did he suspect that the people would look and see him superficially, seeking the consolations of God rather than the God of consolations? Scholars discuss these points of view. So can we. When we
are in heaven, we can ask Jesus face-to-face why he did what he did.
We've been reading St. Mark's gospel almost every days until February 24, the day before Lent begins. As soon as the seasons of Lent, Easter and Pentecost end, we will return to Ordinary Time on June 1, and return to reading from Mark, but only on Sundays up until next Advent
which will begin in late November
Let's get used to hearing Mark's gospel. May I tell you why I like St. Mark's gospel? I would describe Mark as a Meats & Potatoes type person. His gospel is the shortest of the four. He doesn't waste words. He writes simply what Jesus did. Mark's gospel is like a machine-gun
report of healings, miracles, and parables. Mark provides no lengthy transitions as Jesus moves geographically from place to place. Only rarely does Mark have Jesus explain his teachings. Mark lets Jesus' actions speak for themselves. Mark presents Jesus with normal human feelings and reactions:
anger, surprise, sympathy, pity, sadness, and admiration. Mark knows that Jesus is truly God, and demonstrates too that Jesus is truly Man.
Who is Mark? Where did he come from? Scripture scholars think that Mark is the young man in the Garden of Gethsemane who saw Jesus being arrested, and ran away at first in a linen cloth and then naked when someone tried to grab him. (Mk. 14.51-52) His mother and he lived in
Jerusalem in a home where Christians gathered, and to where Peter fled when an angel led him out of prison during Herod's persecution (AA 12.12). Mark, aka John Mark, was the cousin of St. Barnabas. Mark traveled with St. Paul on his first missionary journey, and served as an interpreter on St.
What can we learn from Jesus and Mark? In the second half of Mark's gospel, Jesus proclaims publicly who he is. He declares that he is the Son of God, Who has come to do the Father's will, and he does it. We have been blessed with our Catholic Christian faith. There is a time
to be reserved about it, and a time to proclaim it publicly. Our society currently suffers from great confusion, and needs to hear the word of God, needs to hear of Jesus' physical and spiritual healings. People need to know that suffering makes sense in view of Jesus' teachings, death, and
resurrection. The Church in the United States has spent plenty of time being reserved like Jesus in the first half of Mark's gospel. Is this not the time for us Catholics and all Christians to be more public and vocal about Jesus' identity, his vision, his teachings, his commandments? There is a time
to hold in the Good News, and a time to let the Good News burst forth to all our family, friends, and neighbors. If this is not the time, when will be the time?
Read other homilies by Father O'Malley