On this feast of Saint Mark, we may be tempted to ask what we could possibly learn from a figure from the ancient past. If we read the Acts of the Apostles chapter 15, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Mark was a human being just like us, just as prone to weakness and mistakes. And they were not just small errors either: Mark actually deserted Paul and Barnabas halfway through a missionary tour, leaving them to carry on without his help.
Mark’s desertion was so serious that it caused Paul and Barnabas to argue about whether or not they should take him with them again. Even though Paul had his doubts, Mark did go on to do great things for the Church, not least of which was to produce a gospel account of Our Lord’s life.
So what can we learn from Mark? The first lesson is that God doesn’t give up on us. In the Psalms we constantly hear how God upholds the righteous; and in the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Mark experienced these truths firsthand as he came to terms with his own fears and even his sin. With growing confidence in God’s mercy and power to transform, Mark learned not to let his past dictate his future. And as a result he was able to become one of the Church’s most important early figures.
St. Mark’s story should encourage us to press on and persevere. When we realize that God has forgiven us and that he will continue to show us his mercy, we should do likewise. As we come to understand that God has poured upon us grace that we don’t deserve, our view of other people will become more like Barnabas’ view of Mark: eager to offer second chances and filled with hope for the future. We have all deserted God in one way or another, but he will never desert us. He will always give us another chance, because his plans and his hopes for us are so great. We should never be discouraged when we fall, nor be too quick to judge others when they do. At the end of the day God’s grace is sufficient for all of us.