Today, owing to the fact that it is Good Friday and to the fact that I am on vacation, I sat down and read the gospel according to Mark in one sitting. This isn't all that hard to do, as it is the shortest of the four gospels in the Bible, and I did it in about two and half hours. I only stopped a few times to read a foot note or two, to look up a word in the glossary, and to check the maps in the back of the Bible for a geographical reference. Instead, I focused on the text, the story being told. I've never done that. I've never really tried to read one of the gospels as a narrative. Usually if I read out of the gospels it is to follow along in church, or to look up a specific passage. I've never just sat down and read the gospels; not in twelve years of Catholic school or as a teacher in one now.
I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged I was. Normally I have the attention span of a duck, but I had no problems staying focused. Of course, I know the story well, so I suspect that helped, but I enjoyed reading the story. Mark's gospel was also a good choice too as it is told in vivid detail and at a fast pace. Despite it's short length though, it has detail that the other gospels don't and I liked that as well.
I think the thing that most pleased me about my morning read though, was that there were a few passages that I really related to, that really struck a chord with me. I think that if I added up all the passages from Mark that I have read in my life before today, they would include much of the book, and yet never before have I gotten as much out of it as I did today. How cool is that? After years of schooling and being exposed to the Bible, I still sat down today and made connections that I've never made before.
So here's a Good Friday suggestion. If you are in the mood for some reading and a new experience, get yourself a Bible and have a whack at the gospel of Mark. I'm sure if I got something out of it, you will to. The Bible I am reading is the New American Bible translation, which is not very poetic, but an easy and accessible read. It happens to be the official translation for Catholics in the United States, but you can read any translation you want. Specifically though (in case you're interested), I am using The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition, published by Oxford University Press. The explanatory foot notes and study tools are awesome, and I enjoy learning about the authors of the books as well as facts about the text. The full color maps in the back are great, especially when reading Mark because he gives many geographical references. Most of all though, make sure the first time you read something out of it, just read it as it is told. Don't load your mind with a bunch of theological questions or expectations. Just read. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.