On this day on the Church’s calendar, we celebrate and ask for the intercession of Saint Mark the Evangelist, that patron to so many Episcopal parishes, probably some in your own past. As you know, much of what we know about the early saints comes from legends and stories based in what we understand today as fact and fiction, a distinction our ancestors weren’t so keen on.
Legend has it that there is a line in the Gospel attributed to Saint Mark that is a bit self-revelatory. It is found in the fourteenth chapter and is at once humorous and human. It is set during Jesus’ arrest and impending crucifixion. A young was following Jesus, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. The police caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. And that’s all we hear of that young man.
Some scholars suspect that the young man is the author of Mark’s Gospel, maybe even Saint Mark himself, especially since the vignette is inserted without much fanfare, the way an artist might include her own face in a masterpiece. “Yes I’m in the portrait, but I’m not the subject.”
What a saint to celebrate. A saint who shows up in his youth in a linen cloth, possibly jarred out of sleep due to the commotion of the first Holy Week, who enters the scene as he is, no pretense or plan.
Which is close to the way so many of us might have found ourselves on our own journeys, jarred by the death of a loved one, jarred awake in baptism by a strange person pouring water over our heads, or jarred by a sudden loss in finances, security, or love. And there we are, so close to Jesus, yet so far, bearing witness to his own tussle with authorities bent on his execution, wanting to help, but whisking away, bereft of the single linen cloth we thought would save us from being seen for who we are.
And there, in that moment, we make eye contact with our Lord who sees us and loves and knows us and is unafraid to call us his siblings. The Human One, the Humane One, who too knows what its like to lose power and control and dignity and security.
The Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist
Saint John's Cathedral