We know that on the night that Jesus was arrested, he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Judas and the soldiers arrived mayhem broke out. Arrests were being made and the disciples were running off into the night, leaving Jesus alone. In Mark’s Gospel, during these events, there is one detail that is peculiar to his Gospel: “A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They – the soldiers – caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”
Scholars believe that Mark received the information for the bulk of his Gospel from listening to Peter preach and by visiting with him while Peter was in prison in Rome; however, scholars have also suggested that these verses of the young man running off naked are autobiographical. We know that Mark was not one of the twelve disciples, but this verse suggests that he was at least close to those members. Perhaps not being witness to all that Jesus had done, but at least present at some of the events during Jesus earthly ministry.
Later he will travel with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey and although there will be a falling out over some matter, there is eventually reconciliation, for Paul, in his second letter to Timothy states, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is a great help to me in ministry.” We also know of Peter’s association with Mark from Peter’s first epistle when Peter refers to Mark as “my son.”
From there, tradition has Mark going on to become the first Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt where he would eventually be martyred.
From running naked through the garden to trusted companion to Evangelist to Bishop to Saint. Quite the journey.
I think the lives of the saints we study are tremendous, but I think they can sometimes be very discouraging to us, because by studying them, we often compare them to our own lives.
I’ve got my favorites: Thomas à Kempis, Josemaria Escriva, Archbishop Michael Ramsey. I read about their lives and I read the things that they have written. It’s beautiful and overwhelming all at the same time. But then I almost want to ask, “What planet did they come from?” Even Thomas à Kempis saw it in those he favored, writing, “Consider the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs?” These Saints seem too big to have been cut out of the same mortal cloth as the rest of us, but then we read about someone like Mark.
It’s not that he is lesser than any of them, he’s not, but he does seem a bit more human: running off scared and naked, possibly quitting in the middle of something, having disputes, and in several cases he seems to just be an assistant to the others. Those things sound like something I would do and they make him much more accessible, yet God used him for great things.
As we learn of these great Saints, don’t allow their “saintliness” to discourage you in your own walk. Truthfully, they probably all had moments when they went running off naked into the woods, its just that we don’t always hear about those incidents.
Finally, in the end, its not about the things we do. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” That’s true for the greatest of Saints and for all the rest of us.
As we consider the saints, don’t look on them as someone to compare yourself to. Instead, see them as great sources of inspiration in accomplishing the work, whether great or small, that God has called you to.