The Gospel of Mark ($3.95)
Six-Week Meeting Guide for Small Church Communities
Order from: http://catalog.americancatholic.org/product.aspx?prodid=B16687&pcat=119
Synopsis and Sample Reflection Questions
The Gospel of Mark, a 32-page booklet in 8-1/2x11 paperback format, is an introduction and overview of this earliest and shortest of the four Gospels. The meetings will walk your group through the Gospel chapter by chapter, highlighting themes of the Gospel and events in the life of Jesus. Members of the group will be asked to read the pertinent chapters of the Gospel before each meeting.
Meetings are planned for a two-hour format, with 90 minutes for the opening prayer, commentaries, discussion questions, reflection on the Sunday Gospel and closing prayer. Each session suggests follow-up activites connected to the meeting's theme. The last 30 minutes are for treats and socializing. Room set-up suggestions and other resources for this series are included in the Gathered In His Name Leader’s Guide.
Meeting One: Who Was Mark?
Almost certainly, Mark the Evangelist was the same person mentioned several times in the Acts of the Apostles. He traveled with Paul; Peter calls him “my son Mark.” He went to Egypt to spread the Gospel, was Bishop of Alexandria and was martyred under Nero. His bones now rest in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. He is often represented by a winged lion, representing the royal dignity of Jesus; his feast is April 25. Mark drew heavily on the memory of Peter but also on other sources now lost. The Gospel was written in the late 60s A.D. for a Gentile audience, although Mark was Jewish. Two themes are threaded throughout this Gospel: the dual nature of Jesus (God and man), and the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the “anointed one.” Mark also wrote about what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. He wrote during a time of persecution about the suffering Jesus, and places Jesus’ life in the context of his passion, death and resurrection. This Gospel stresses the “Messianic secret,” portrays the human emotions of Jesus more than other Gospels and conveys Jesus’ intensity in delivering his message.
Sample reflection question: How do you see Jesus – as the Good Shepherd, the healer, the one who blessed the bread and wine, the suffering servant or another image? What image has special meaning to you today?
Meeting Two: Jesus Begins His Ministry
Chapters One and Two of the Gospel. Mark includes no infancy narrative, but begins at the start of Jesus’ public life, on the day of Jesus’ baptism. From the first 13 verses of this Gospel we get all the basics: “(Jesus) is both God and man, he suffers and he follows the guidance of the Spirit. From John the Baptism we learn the role of the disciple: to prepare the way for the Lord, and to turn everyone’s attention to him.” Jesus speaks with urgency and hope: “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus chooses his first disciples, but it is often the outsider who recognizes who Jesus really is. Jesus draws strength from prayer: “In the morning… he went to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (This single verse was the inspiration of an entire book by Henri Nouwen.) Jesus reveals he came to preach, not to the few but to as many as possible. He heals a leper, and when the leper tells everyone, Jesus can no longer enter towns openly; already at the end of Chapter I he is becoming an outcast. The cure of the paralytic shows the importance of a community of faith in our times of need.
Sample reflection question: John lived in the desert, wore animal skins and ate bugs. Share a story about someone you know who might be considered eccentric but who has or had something important to say.
Meeting Three: The Public Ministry of Jesus
Chapters Three through Five of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus faces growing opposition from the Jewish leaders and even his disciples. “Yet Jesus stays with them, cares for them and teaches them. He does not give up on them.” In Chapter Four, Jesus preaches in parables; he explains the Parable of the Sower to his disciples. Chapter Five finds more miracles of healing mental and physical illnesses, and raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead. This episode, more completely described in Mark than the other Gospels, “touches on what Jesus does for each of us. It speaks to what can happen when we are dead to the life of grace, to the beauty of the world God created, to the goodness of those around us. It speaks to what can happen when almost everyone gives up on us, but one person doesn’t – and God doesn’t.”
Sample reflection question: Share a time when your “soil” was rocky, full of thorns or very rich. What kind of soil are you today?
Meeting Four: The Journey to Jerusalem
Chapters Six through Ten of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus feeds the multitudes. He asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds, “You are the Messiah.” This is the turning point in the Gospel. Jesus tells the disciples his own destiny, and what it means to be a disciple – to suffer as Jesus suffers. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant…” Jesus encourages his disciples to become like little children. He tells a would-be disciple to “sell what you own,” the passage that inspired St. Francis of Assisi to give up his riches and serve the poor. Finally, Jesus cures a blind man, Bartimaeus. (A guided meditation on this miracle concludes the meeting.)
Sample reflection question: Describe a time when you faced an ordeal. What helped you prepare for it?
Meeting Five: Jesus’ Final Week
Chapters Eleven through Thirteen of the Gospel of Mark. Anecdote of a pastoral care minister who retired, feeling she had left so much unfinished work, and then realized this was how Jesus must have felt at the end of his life. These three chapters document his final, hectic days, beginning with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They show Jesus teaching in the temple, speaking of the two great commandments (love of God and neighbor), urging his disciples to “keep awake,” meeting the attacks of his accusers. On Tuesday or Wednesday he eats dinner with Simon the leper and is anointed there with expensive oil. “He praises the unnamed woman … because she has ‘performed a good service for me’ – and she did it at a time when Jesus was most in need of kindness and consolation.” This is the final episode Mark relates before the Last Supper.
Sample reflection question: Describe a time when you had to leave some part of your life behind but felt that there was still a lot to be done.
Meeting Six: The Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus
Chapters 14:12 – 16 of Mark’s Gospel. The commentary opens with a statement from Agatha Christie’s Autobiography, “If you love, you will suffer, and if you do not love, you do not know the meaning of the Christian life.” It describes some of the suffering faced by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in the last years of his life, and his reflection in The Gift of Peace: “It is in the act of abandonment that we experience redemption…” Mark wrote a very detailed description of the passion and death of Jesus, beginning with the preparations for the Passover meal. When Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin, his silence amazes them, but when asked if he is the Messiah, he answers, “I am,” an acknowledgment found only in the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s entire account of the crucifixion and death of Jesus is included in this meeting. After the burial of Jesus, some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel continue for only a few more verses, telling how the woman at the tomb met a young man who told them Jesus had risen from the dead and had gone on to Galilee. Other manuscripts describe Jesus’ encounters with Mary Magdalene and other disciples, and his appearance to the eleven. He commissions them to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news…” The commentary concludes, “Thus ends the good news, the Gospel of Mark. It ends with Jesus working with his disciples even after he is gone. And yet it does not end but continues, because Jesus is still with us, working with us, confirming the word in our own lives and in the world. Alleluia!”
Sample reflection question: Even after the Resurrection the disciples are very slow. Still, Jesus sends them out to do his work. Why? What does that imply for us today?