"the Gospel must first be preached to all nations."
From the beginning, Christians have suffered persecution in one form or another. But that persecution does not always come from the outside, sometimes it comes from within.
In A.D. 364, Flavius Julius Valens Augustus, known to history as Valens, was made emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. Years earlier the emperor Constantine had made Christianity the official religion of the empire.
Valens was a Christian but he held to the Arian heresy which claimed that Jesus was not God but merely a creature created by God. The Arian heresy prompted a persecution of Orthodox Christians who held to the Nicene Creed. The Arians were a powerful force of princes and bishops, nobles, senators and generals. They commanded powerful armies and senates and threatened to wipe out True Christianity.
In A.D. 355, Constantius, the western emperor, called for an ecumenical council at Milan to ease the tension between the various Christian factions. The council instead turned to a condemnation of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria Egypt, and the chief opponent of the Arians.
Eusebius, the bishop of Vercelli, Italy, was appalled at this treatment and rose to defend Athanasius. For his trouble he was brought to the attention of Emperor Valens. Valens threatened Eusebius with the confiscation of all his goods, torture, banishment, or even death if the bishop did not condemn Athanasius as well.
Eusebius replied, “He needs not fear confiscation, who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his country; nor torments, when his body can be destroyed at one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow.”
The healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment is told only in the Gospel according to St. Mark. Why was this? Besides the recounting of a miracle, what message was Mark trying to convey to his readers?
Saint Mark addressed his Gospel to gentile converts living in Rome at the time of the first persecution of Christians under Nero. The followers of Christ were driven underground, literally, into the catacombs. They were a persecuted people. They could not openly speak the Lord’s name nor hear His words. They were in a very real sense, deaf and mute.
Mark emphasizes God’s presence among the people in the person of Jesus. The miracles are very real and immediate. In today’s reading our attention is drawn to the physical reality of a hand, a finger, ears, tongue, and spitting. In Jesus, God has truly come in the flesh.
He has come to set us free. He opens our ears so that we may hear His word, and loosens our tongue to praise His name even in the face of persecution. Mark prepared us for this as well.
"They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them.
But the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:9-10, 13
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
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© Lawrence Klimecki
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Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit www.DeaconLawrence.org
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith