Reading Mark in Advent is an 18-part podcast series that sees us upload a chapter of Mark’s Gospel each weekday of the season. With a global pandemic sweeping the world and lockdowns and restrictions placed on our everyday living – not to mention patterns of worship and prayer – this is very much “the Word in Lockdown”.But the Word of God is never locked down, isolated and contained. As Pope Francis says:“The word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12); it does not die, nor does it age, but it remains for ever (cf. 1 Peter 1:25). It stays young in the presence of all that passes away (cf. Matthew 25:35) and preserves those who put it into practice from inner aging.”
In Chapter One, John the Baptist prepares the way for Christ. We hear the account of John baptising Jesus in the Jordan, the temptation of Jesus, how He calls His first disciples and we witness his healings and preaching.
In Chapter Two, Jesus heals a paralytic, calls Levi, son of Alphaeus, and answers a question about his disciples and why they are not fasting. We learn that the Son of Man is Lord – even of the Sabbath.
In Chapter Three, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath and the Pharisees and Herodians plot against him. A great crowd flocks to him as he has healed many. He then appoints the twelve apostles before warning that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is guilty of an eternal sin.
In Chapter Four, we hear the Parable of the Sower and learn about the purpose of the parables. Then Jesus tells those around him, and the twelve, about the lamp under the basket and what it illustrates as well as the Parable of the Seed Growing and the Parable of the Mustard Seed.The chapter ends with Jesus calming a storm, He rebuked the wind and the sea saying, “Peace! Be still!”
Chapter Five is a chapter of healing. Firstly, Jesus heals a man with a demon. Then he heals a woman and Jairus’s daughter. When he tells them that the child is not dead – as they suspect – but sleeping, they laugh at him. But he says “Talitha cumi” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”
In Chapter Six, Jesus marvels at the lack of belief shown by people in his home town of Nazareth – despite his healings. He then sends out the twelve Apostles, two by two, telling them to only take a staff — no bread, bag or money in their belts.
We learn about the death of John the Baptist, beheaded by King Herod, before Jesus feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fish.
Chapter Seven sees Jesus tell the Pharisees and scribes that they have rejected the commandments of God to establish their own traditions. He explains what defiles a person and we learn of the Syrophoenician woman’s faith. Jesus casts a demon out of her daughter.
Chapter Eight starts with Jesus showing compassion to the great crowd that has gathered before him. He feeds them.Then he tells the Pharisees who want to argue with him, that they will not be given the sign they demand.Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida before Peter, when walking with Jesus around the villages of Caesarea Philippi, confesses Jesus as the Christ.
In Chapter Nine, at the top of a high mountain, Jesus is transfigured in front of Peter, James and John.
Jesus heals a boy possessed by an unclean spirit and, again, foretells his death and Resurrection.
The chapter ends with Jesus warning about the temptations to sin.
In Chapter 10, Jesus teaches the Pharisees about divorce – “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” He also rebukes his disciples for keeping the children from gathering around him.
Jesus also tells the rich young man what he must do to inherit eternal life and foretells his death a third time.
Chapter 11 sees us join Jesus as he approaches Jerusalem. He sends two of his disciples ahead to bring him a colt. He enters Jerusalem and goes into the temple. Jesus overturns the tables of the money-changers and cleanses the temple.
Chapter 12 starts with Jesus speaking to the chief priests, scribes and elders in parables. He tells the Parable of the Tenants showing them that “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”. Feeling the sting of criticism, they considered arresting Jesus but feared the people.
Chapter Thirteen starts with Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple. He then sits on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple with Peter, James, John and Andrew. He warns them to be on guard as he discusses the signs of the end of the age.
For Chapter Fourteen, we have two podcasts to proclaim the Gospel.
We learn, at the start of the chapter, that the chief priests and scribes are plotting to kill Jesus but are wary of doing so before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The second podcast completing Chapter Fourteen of St Mark’s Gospel, focusing on verses 32-72, starts with Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.
As with the previous chapter, we have two podcasts to proclaim the Gospel for Chapter Fifteen.
Here we focus on verses 1-21 as Jesus is bound and handed over to Pontius Pilate.
We pick up the second part of Chapter Fifteen at the foot of the cross as Jesus is Crucified at Golgotha.
Darkness spreads over the whole land until the ninth hour when Jesus cries out: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We come to the sixteenth and final podcast of our Reading Mark in Advent series.
After the agony of Our Lord’s crucifixion and death, we conclude with Jesus’s glorious Resurrection.