Each year on 25 April, the Church celebrates the feast of St Mark. Who is this Mark? He is usually identified with a young man we meet in the Acts of the Apostles. This Mark was a member of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, whose mother offered refuge to Peter when he escaped from Herod’s prison (Acts 12:12). We also know of a Mark who was a companion of Paul and Barnabas on their missionary travels (Acts 13:5), but who at a certain point left them, causing Paul to refuse to invite him to join him on a later journey (Acts 13:13; 15:38). But there may well have been a reconciliation, since the name of Mark is mentioned in some Pauline letters (Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 24). There is also a Mark mentioned as ‘my son, Mark’ in the conclusion of the First Letter of Peter (1 Peter 5:13). But we must be aware that Mark was a very common name in those days, and we have no guarantee that these several references to ‘Mark’ refer to the same person and that this Mark was the one who wrote the gospel we know as the ‘Gospel according to Mark’.
The real reason why the Church selects a special day in honour of Mark is to show her profound appreciation of the gospel that bears his name. But just as the missionary achievement of Mark in the Acts of the Apostles is overshadowed by those of Paul and Barnabas, so too his gospel has lived in the shade of three gospels of greater length and popularity which we know as Matthew, Luke and John. It is true that the current Lectionary of the Catholic Church for the Sunday Eucharist since 1969 uses Mark as the most common Sunday gospel in its Year B of the cycle; for various reasons this gospel receives less exposure than do Matthew in Year A and Luke in Year C.