Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr – Readings

Commentary on Romans 5:1-5; Mark 16:15-20

The Gospel comes from the very end of Mark, a section that some scripture scholars hold does not really belong to the original text, but was added later and, in fact, it echoes passages from the other gospels, especially Matthew (the original Mark gospel predates that of Matthew).

Nevertheless, one can see why it was chosen as the Gospel for today’s feast.  The first part of today’s reading is said to contain words spoken by Jesus while eating with his disciples in the Upper Room after the Resurrection.  The apostles receive their mandate from Jesus to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to “the whole creation”.  It is reminiscent of similar words found in Matthew where they are spoken just before the Ascension.

Jesus then promises that belief in him and his message will bring signs:

…by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

In the second part, we are told that the Lord Jesus then ascended to his Father and, as his followers carried out his commands, the things he promised did indeed take place as a confirmation of the truth of their message.

The relevance to Blaise is clear.  Many miracles and wonders were attributed to him – the healing of the sick and being able to live safely in the company of wild animals. The Lord continues to work wonders today although they are not often literally miraculous events, but experiences which may even be more influential in the lives of people.  Perhaps we have had or seen such experiences ourselves.

The First Reading is a lovely passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  He reminds his hearers of all the wonderful graces that have come through living their lives in faith and hope:

…our hope of sharing the glory of God.

He even tells them to rejoice in their sufferings, not because they are pleasurable, but because suffering properly accepted teaches endurance and inner strength.  Endurance shows that we have risen to the test, the test of our faith in the Lord Jesus.  And our ability to do this is the basis for our hope, a hope that will one day be vindicated.

And it is not an empty hope:

…because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

This is a passage which was lived by Blaise, who faced every kind of torment and, in the end, did not hesitate to give his life, following the example of his Lord.

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