The Catholic Church has three cycles of Sunday readings: Year A when Sunday Gospels during Ordinary Time are usually from Matthew, Year B when they are mostly from Mark with some from John, and Year C when they are mostly from Luke. Especially in these early weeks of Ordinary Time, I think there is a distinct benefit to our Year B readings. It is the benefit of multiple perspectives.
As an English major in college, I studied literary analysis and writing as a craft. I have always enjoyed creative writing as a hobby, but studying it gave me a greater appreciation for what it takes to be a compelling writer. As I read and write now, years removed from my college studies, I find that I notice and appreciate differences in writing style. Year B gives us the opportunity to experience these differences, to “see” the events portrayed in the Gospels through the eyes of different authors. Each evangelist had their own distinct motivation for writing the way that he did and for a specific audience. Because we hear from both Mark and John regularly during the periods of Ordinary Time in Year B, we benefit from these differing motivations.
In the early weeks of Ordinary Time, we hear first of Jesus’ Baptism and then we hear the deeper significance of it. We see Jesus’ apostles coming to him in a variety of ways, but always staying with him of their own free will. We are given many examples of the healing works that Jesus performed. And because Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, he doesn’t dither around, but gets straight to the point. This is how it happened. This is why it is the way it is.
In our Gospels from John, we are shown the deeper, more mystical truths of who Jesus is and the effects of his actions. John is all about symbolism and the weight that it carries. He writes in a much more artistic style, drawing us in to the mystery of Jesus as fully human and fully divine, in contrast to Mark’s very straightforward, almost journalistic approach.
It is good to have exposure to multiple forms and genres of writing. It makes the act of reading much more interesting. Hopefully, having a variety of writing styles presented to us in Year B helps us to be more attentive to the Gospels in particular and to the Mass as a whole.