The Gospel of St. Mark may have been the first of the Gospels to be written down and circulated. St. Mark was not an Apostle, but he was a close companion, translator and assistant to St. Peter and traveled to Rome with him. He had also traveled with St. Paul.
Mark’s Gospel may well be the teachings of Peter himself. St. Mark’s Gospel provides some vivid situations and precise times and places, such as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, soon after John the Baptist was arrested. Mark tells us,
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
“The time of fulfillment.” The prophecies of the Old Testament pointed toward Jesus, the Messiah, and in Jesus they are fulfilled.
“The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Where God is, there is his Kingdom. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is God. He can say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
We often speak of our life as a pilgrimage moving toward Heaven. In fact, Heaven comes to us, as Jesus came to us. His Kingdom is already here. Listen again to the words of the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven….
Jesus called disciples, hundreds of them and taught them, and performed signs for them. From these disciples Jesus chose twelve men whom he called Apostles.
The Twelve. In Hebrew culture, some numbers had symbolic meaning. The number seven was used to describe a contract, a covenant, or something complete. The world was created in seven days.
The number twelve referred to governance, e.g., The Twelve Tribes of Israel. Jesus would found his Church upon the twelve Apostles.
These readings hold a lot of meaning for me, as I am a convert. I was born into a Protestant family. I didn’t find meaning there. If I was going to be Christian, I wanted to be in the Church that Jesus founded. As a young man I discovered the Church Jesus founded upon the Apostles 2,000 years ago. Our Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. To the Church Jesus entrusted his authority to forgive sins, and the authority to preach and teach. And, he remained in the Church he established, abiding in the Sacraments, like Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Priesthood and Eucharist.
“The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Catholics who practice their faith and faithfully live the sacramental life of the Church, live already in the coming Kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem. The sacraments give us forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In Baptism we begin our life in Jesus. Baptism is the door. It is as if we already live in the “ante-room” of Heaven.
“Repent, and believe in the gospel.” We cannot live in God’s Kingdom unless we repent. We are speaking of a deep conversion, and submission to God’s Will. Conversion and repentance are absolutely necessary to enter God’s kingdom.
We hear people say things like, “I haven’t sinned, I haven’t killed anybody.” “I don’t need to go to Confession.” “I don’t need the Church.” “I don’t need organized religion.” “I believe God understands me.”
“Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. Jesus established the Church for us to guide us and form us, and to prepare us to live with Him eternally in His Kingdom.