Years ago in a course on the Synoptic Gospels, an assignment changed my life. Fr. Frank Matera instructed us to read the Gospel of Mark – from beginning to end – in one sitting. Before we began reading, we were to forget everything we thought we knew about Jesus – to set aside all of the deeply-engrained images, long-held presumptions and preconceived ideas we had accumulated over the course of our lives. Reading Mark’s account, we were to meet Jesus for the first time – to encounter him with open minds in this fast-paced narrative – to be confronted by the radical life and urgent demands of this Jesus of Nazareth. It was an assignment offered in an academic setting, but it had the potential to transform us at a far deeper level.
There is a general consensus among scholars that Mark’s Gospel was the first of the canonical Gospels to be written. It is exciting to read a text so ancient and so raw, a text that was almost certainly used as the framework for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. I invite you to set aside one hour sometime this week, find a quiet place, and open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark (which is significantly shorter than the other Gospels). Use your imagination and travel through the narrative with Jesus. Listen to him, watch him, witness his death. Be honest with yourself about what he is asking of you. You are a disciple, and he is your Master. You will never be the same!