Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of all the Gospels at 16 chapters. Compare this to Luke’s 24, John’s 21 and Matthew’s whopping 28. Stretching the Markan Gospel over a full liturgical year would have been a challenge. But there is another pastoral consideration here as well. Mark’s Gospel is a collection of the saving works and deeds of Jesus, his teachings on the cost of discipleship, and the Passion. There are thirteen miracles in the first half of the Gospel alone (compared to John’s seven in his entire Gospel.) Again, as I wrote earlier, there are few parables or lengthy discourses or extended teachings of Jesus recorded by St. Mark, possibly because of limitations of his resource material, but more likely because Mark remained focused upon his theme of the suffering servant of God awaiting the coming Kingdom.
St. John’s Gospel, by contrast, is the logical complement to Mark and the editors of the 1969 lectionary chose to incorporate readings from John side by side with Mark. John wrote his Gospel at least several decades after Mark; by this time the challenge facing John was establishing once and for all the full nature of Christ as God and man, “…and the Word became Flesh.” John’s few miracles are dramatic and well-known. They are proclaimed with great solemnity at the liturgies of the Catechumenate during Lent (the Man Born Blind, the Raising of Lazarus, etc.). But Jesus’ miracles in John’s Gospel are the introduction to what we might call his doctrinal teachings. Chapter 6, which we will hear for several weeks this summer, begins with the miracle of the loaves and fishes but expands into the timeless teaching of Jesus as the Bread of Life.
Today’s Gospel is a synopsis of what probably happened at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, when disciples of John began to drift toward Jesus. Interestingly, the phrase describing Jesus’ “walking by” or “passing by” John and his two disciples has multiple meanings in its original Greek, ranging from “passing away” (from the Baptist?} to “passing through,” with overtones of the passage through the Red Sea. The context of the Gospel suggests the latter with the initiative of Jesus in connecting with these men to reveal himself to them as a Savior in the Mosaic sense at the Reed Sea. Not to be overlooked is the clock: the English translation of 4 PM indicates that the sun was still shining brightly. John the Evangelist uses the position of the sun skillfully throughout his Gospel. The sun shines brightest when the truth and glory of God are fully revealed. Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at high noon with powerful results. On the other hand, Nicodemus timidly approaches “at night” and when Judas left the Last Supper, “it was dark.”
Something I discovered today: when using the USCCB site to look up the daily readings, look for the “Bible” heading on the menu at the top and drop it down. The USCCB Daily readings resource can be obtained daily by email if you wish. I would recommend as a general point that you mark the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in your “favorites” tab under religious resources.
Regarding this weekend today marks the beginning of the annual Church Unity Octave, a week of prayer for the end of divisions of the Christian Family. Monday is the national civil observance of Dr. Martin Luther King; Thursday is a day of prayerful observance in the U.S. on behalf of legal rights for the unborn as well as the annual D.C. March for Life. I am curious if your parish promoted or marked these events this weekend and how it was done.