Stewards of the Easter Season

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen! If you’re thinking this greeting comes a little late, since Easter Sunday was April 21, think again. As Catholic Christians, we celebrate the Easter season for seven weeks, until the fires of Pentecost once again inflame our hearts on June 9. Indeed, how could we not continue to celebrate this event that has changed everything for us?

It’s easy to slip into a cultural way of thinking about our great feasts. Many people have the Christmas tree taken down at the end of New Year’s Day, rather than waiting for Epiphany. Likewise, most of us have long ago put the Easter decorations away. But the Christian steward is aware of the beauty and meaning of the seasons in the liturgical calendar.

The Easter season remains a special time for recommitment to the Lord. One word for this period is “mystagogia,” and those who were newly baptized at the Great Easter Vigil are especially familiar with this term. It literally means that we delve more deeply into the mystery of our faith. But exploring this mystery is not just an endeavor for new Christians. As we prepare for Pentecost, we prayerfully examine what the Resurrection means in our own lives.

For Christian stewards, it’s a time to reevaluate how faith in the Risen Lord informs every aspect of our lives – how we labor, how we play, the way we pray, how we allocate our resources, where we spend our time, how we love, how we extend our compassion to others. If Christ is truly risen – an astounding and life-altering belief – then this Easter time brings immense joy and a continuing desire to know the Risen Lord.

The Scripture readings of the season are especially helpful. We hear once again the stories of the appearances of Jesus to his friends; how often they failed, initially, to recognize him in his glory. The Acts of the Apostles tell us of the struggles and the excitement of the new community of believers. We spent forty days in the penitential season of Lent.

Now, we are embarked on fifty days of joyous celebration. Let us experience this joy throughout the Easter season, so that when we celebrate Pentecost, we may truly find our hearts on fire with the Holy Spirit.

Stewardship Saint for April: Saint Mark the Evangelist

Saint Luke’s theology of stewardship is well-documented. But it is also well-known that an understanding of Saint Mark’s theology of Christian discipleship in the second Gospel is necessary in order to understand Luke’s views on stewardship. Hence, Mark’s views on discipleship as well as his stewardship of Saint Peter’s memories, make him an important stewardship saint in his own right. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Mark’s mother, Mary, owned a house in Jerusalem in which the earliest Christian community gathered. After visiting Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas took Mark back with them to Antioch. Mark assisted them in their evangelization efforts in Cyprus, but upon their arrival by ship in Perga, he left them and returned to Jerusalem. Later, after returning to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas had an argument over Mark. Barnabas wanted to take Mark on their next missionary journey, but Paul objected on the grounds that Mark had not persevered on the previous journey. Accordingly, Barnabas took Mark back to Cyprus, and Paul set out for Syria and Cilicia with Silas. In the letter to Philemon, Mark is mentioned among Paul’s fellow workers. When Paul was held captive in Rome, Mark was with him, giving him “comfort” (Col.4:10). In the same verse, Mark is mentioned as the cousin of Barnabas, and the Christians at Colossae are urged to offer hospitality to Mark if he should come there.

Elsewhere, Timothy is asked to bring Mark to Paul, since he is useful for the apostle’s ministry. The first letter attributed to Peter, written in all likelihood from Rome, mentions Mark as the “son” of Peter, a term either of simple affection or an indication that Peter was Mark’s father in the faith. Mark’s presence in Rome with Peter would be consistent with the tradition that Mark was the steward of Peter’s memories, taking copious notes of Peter’s reflections on Jesus’ teaching and deeds. This tradition comes from the early Christian historian Eusebius, who also wrote that Mark was Peter’s “interpreter.” Many scholars believe that Mark wrote his Gospel while in Rome, although another tradition suggests that the Gospel was written in Alexandria.

Saint Mark is the patron saint of many groups including lawyers, notaries, secretaries, painters, pharmacists and interpreters. He is also the patron saint of Venice and Egypt. His traditional symbol is that of the winged lion and his feast day is April 25.