St. Mark is usually identified with John Mark, whose mother Mary’s house was used as a meeting place by the early Church in Jerusalem (Acts 12: 12, 25). His cousin was St. Barnabas and, when St. Paul and St. Barnabas went on a missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. But Mark left them and St. Paul’s loss of confidence in him led to a split with Barnabas. In time they were reconciled and Mark helped Paul when he was in prison in Rome (see Colossians 4: 10). It was while he was in Rome that Mark got to know St. Peter (1 Peter 5: 13) from whom he acquired the material to write the Gospel that bears his name. This small picture of the early Church shows that conversion is not a one-time deal and that growth in holiness is ongoing. As we pray for vocations and for hope for Africans, let us reflect on Pope Benedict’s response to a seminarian who asked: “How can we respond to such a demanding vocation as that of shepherds of God's holy People while being constantly aware of our weakness and inconsistencies?”
It is good to recognize one's weakness because in this way we know that we stand in need of the Lord's grace. The Lord comforts us. In the Apostolic College there was not only Judas but also the good Apostles; yet, Peter fell and many times the Lord reprimanded the Apostles for their slowness, the closure of their hearts and their scant faith. He therefore simply shows us that none of us is equal to this great yes…. To console us, the Lord has also given us these parables of the net with the good fish and the bad fish, of the field where wheat but also tares grow. He makes us realize that he came precisely to help us in our weakness, and that he did not come, as he says, to call the just, those who claim they are righteous through and through and are not in need of grace, those who pray praising themselves; but he came to call those who know they are lacking, to provoke those who know they need the Lord's forgiveness every day, that they need his grace in order to progress.
I think this is very important: to recognize that we need an ongoing conversion, that we are simply not there yet. St Augustine, at the moment of his conversion, thought he had reached the heights of life with God, of the beauty of the sun that is his Word. He then had to understand that the journey after conversion is still a journey of conversion, that it remains a journey where the broad perspectives, joys and lights of the Lord are not absent; but nor are dark valleys absent through which we must wend our way with trust, relying on the goodness of the Lord.