Two brothers went to an elder monk who lived alone in Scete and the first one said, “Father, I have learned all of the Old and New Testaments by heart.” The elder said to him, “You have filled the air with words.” The other one said, “I have copied out the old and New Testaments and have them in my hut.” To this one the elder replied, “You have filled your window with parchment, but do you not know Him who said, ‘The kingdom of God is not in words, but in power?’ and again, ‘Not those who hear the law will be justified before God, but those who carry it out.’”
As holy as scripture is and as life giving as the sacred texts are, they are still limiting, for in finding Jesus only in the words, He remains confined to our intellectual ability to understand that which cannot truly be understood. But, as we know, Jesus is not just a figure in a book and he is not a distant memory of ancient events, Jesus is a living presence. Therefore, we are not only called to know about Jesus, but more importantly, we are called to know Jesus. We do this, not only in listening to the voices of others, but also in hearing the voice of Jesus for ourselves.
My favorite monk, Thomas a Kempis wrote, “O God, You Who are the truth, make me one with You in love everlasting. I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You. You alone speak to me.”
We can memorize the entire canon of scripture, but like the two monks in Scete, unless it is the Lord that speaks to us, that writes the words of scripture on our hearts, then we are accomplishing nothing more than some academic exercise.
Holy Scripture does not say it specifically, but I feel as though St. Mark was one who had met Jesus, talked with him, and so on. Scripture also indicates that he went on missions with Paul and Barnabas, and that he sat at the feet of the great Apostle Peter and learned much from him. Yet, even with all this, there had to of come a day in his life when he set aside the writings and said, “Lord, You alone speak to me.” There had to of been a day when he encountered, witnessed the crucified and resurrected Lord for himself, because his Gospel is a testimony to that encounter and a desire for you to have a similar encounter.
He begins his Gospel with the words, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and proceeds in very succinct language to tell the story of Jesus.
At the end of his Gospel, those who study the ancient manuscripts tell us that Mark actually has two endings, the second being written sometime after the original, which they say occurs 16:8. That verse states, “And afterward Jesus himself sent out through [the apostles], from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” The later ending (16:20) states, “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.”
In his Gospel, Mark tells the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ and then — whether in the original or later ending — after the apostles had encountered Jesus for themselves, they went out and proclaimed salvation, so that others might experience Jesus. So that you and I might experience Jesus, not just in the words of the text, but in our lives.
I encourage you all, in your times of prayer and study, to set aside the scriptures, the prayer book—to set aside all those other voices, including your own—and say, “Lord, You alone speak to me,” and allow the One who has been handed down to us in the texts, to speak to you personally.