Today is the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. Typically, this is the day we honor the author of the gospel of Mark. Who Mark was is a little uncertain, as there are several references to Marks in scripture. If we are to believe that they all point to the same person, we have some clues about his identity. In Colossians, Paul refers to Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, who joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. At some point in the journey, Mark turned back, abandoning the mission. Later, when the three are ready to journey again, Paul refused to travel with Mark because of his earlier abandonment. Later, the two reconcile and Mark and Paul journey to Rome together.
St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice honors the fullness of Mark’s progression from turning back on his missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as Son of God, to bearing witness later in life as companions of Peter and Paul. So often, when someone disappoints us or seems like a failure, we turn an eye of judgment upon them. We may welcome them back in the fold if they repent or correct their ways, but we always remember in the back of our minds how once upon a time they disappointed us. But the Basilica seems to claim Mark’s entire journey is a journey to be celebrated.
I wonder what those times have been when you have abandoned your own missionary journey. Perhaps you felt an initial call and sense of passion, but then you got scared, or you started to doubt yourself or the call, or you just could not pull your life together to follow Christ’s invitation. So often when we talk about faith journeys, we talk about forks in the road, or new paths, but we rarely admit those times when we did an about-face, and just let go of what God had called us to do. Perhaps we are ashamed or fear the judgment of others.
What I like about St. Mark’s story is that God is present throughout Mark’s journey and God uses Mark no matter what. Whether it was a vocation we quit, a relationship with a faith community we left, or a personal relationship we cutoff, God is ever present with us, using our actions for good. Some of us will never return to the same path like Mark did. But we certainly take something powerful from that experience of walking away. I invite you to consider those turns on your journey which you have been holding in shadow and consider letting God’s light to shine on them. My guess is you will find more people who want to celebrate your path than judge.