Feast of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Companions of St. Paul
Isaiah 52: 7-10
Mark 16: 15-20
I had one of those aha moments on Sunday night which keeps reverberating through me. I had flown up from Boston earlier in the day and was staying with my sister and her family. That night my brother and his family came for dinner. The nine of us sat around the dining room table that had once been in my parents’ dining room. We laughed a lot. We caught up on each other’s news. We talked about the upcoming wedding of one of my nephews. We told stories. We exchanged news about my other siblings and their families, who weren’t at dinner that night. And we laughed some more. It was a great evening. Everyone went home or up to bed that night knowing something important had happened.
What happened on Sunday over good food, good wine and good company was that my family was re-membered. The disparate parts of the body were brought together and reconnected through food, wine and story. We reminded ourselves who we are, not as individuals, but as a family. We reminded ourselves who we belonged to and from where we had come.
Cyril and Methodius, whom we remember today in the church calendar, were brothers born in the 9th century at Thessalonica, a large Greek city on the Mediterranean, a city evangelized by St. Paul many centuries earlier. By invitation, they became apostles to the southern Slavic people, the Moravians. Cyril was a student of philosophy and a deacon, who eventually became a monk and missionary. Methodius was the first governor of this, a Slavic colony, then became a monk, and was later elected abbot of a monastery in Constantinople.
Mark’s Gospel is famously compact, moving breathlessly from one scene to another in rapid succession. Immediately he did this and straightway they did that.
Mark’s Gospel is also famous for having not one, not two, but three possible endings. Possibility #1 is the women fleeing trembling from an angel at the empty tomb because they were afraid. End of story. Possibility #2 is a later addition called the “Shorter Ending”: “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” End of story. (An odd detail: they “told briefly”.) Possibility #3 includes some very brief references to three resurrection appearances followed by what we heard a few moments ago about snakes and poison and such. End of story.
On December 27, 1866, our founders, Richard Meux Benson, Charles Chapman Grafton, and Simeon Wilberforce O’Neill took monastic vows not as members of the Society of St. John the Evangelist but as Mission Priests of St. John the Evangelist. Shortly after profession, Father O’Neill was sent out to India. He began the community’s work of evangelization which flourished and grew. Father O’Neill died shortly after reaching India, but his work was seminal and the Society remained in India into the 1960’s.