On Authority as Service

God «Cannot Will Anything if Not Our Good»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) presents us Jesus, who on the Sabbath preaches in the synagogue of Capernaum the little city on the Sea of Galilee where Peter and his brother Andrew lived. His teaching, which caused the people to wonder, was followed by the liberation of «a man possessed by an unclean spirit» (1:23), who recognizes in Jesus the «Holy One of God,» that is, the Messiah. In a short time his fame spread through the whole region in which he traveled proclaiming the Kingdom of God and healing all types of sick people: word and deed. St. John Chrysostom observes how the Lord «adapts his discourse to what is beneficial to his listeners, proceeding from prodigies to words and passing again from teaching his doctrine to miracles» (Hom. in Matthæum 25, 1: PG 57, 328).

The word Jesus addresses to men immediately opens up access to the Father’s will and to the truth about themselves. This is not how it went with the scribes, who had to make an effort to interpret the sacred Scriptures with countless reflections. Moreover, Jesus joined the efficaciousness of the word to the signs of liberation from evil. St. Augustine observed that «commanding demons and casting them out is not a human but a divine work»; in fact, the Lord «relieved men of all sickness and every infirmity. Who, seeing his power … would still have doubted that he was the Son, the Wisdom and the Power of God?» (Oratio de Incarnatione Verbi 18.19: PG 25, 128 BC.129 B). Divine authority is not a power of nature. It is the power of God’s love that creates the universe and, incarnating itself in the Only Begotten Son, descending into our humanity, it heals the world corrupted by sin. Romano Guardini writes: «Jesus’ whole existence is the translation of power into humility … it is sovereignty that here abases itself in the form of servant» («Power and Responsibility,» Regnery, 1961).

Often for man authority means possession, power, dominance, success. For God, instead, authority means service, humility, love; it means entering into the logic of Jesus who stoops to wash the feet of his disciples (cf. John 13:5), who seeks man’s true good, who heals wounds, who is capable of a love so great that he gives his life, because he is Love. In one of her letters, St. Catherine of Siena writes: «It is necessary that we see and know, in truth, with the light of faith, that God is the Supreme and Eternal Love, and he cannot will anything if not our good» (Ep. 13 in: Le Lettere, vol. 3, Bologna 1999, 206).

Dear friends, next Thursday, Feb. 2, we will celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the World Day of Consecrated Life. Let us call with confidence upon Mary Most Holy, that she guide our hearts to draw always upon divine mercy, which liberates and frees our humanity, filling it with grace and benevolence, with the power of love.

[After the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the faithful in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today in Vienna, Hildegard Burjan will be beatified. She was a laywoman and a mother, who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries and is the foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Caritas Socialis (Social Charity). Let us praise the Lord for this beautiful witness of the Gospel!

This Sunday is World Leprosy Day. In greeting the Italian Association of the Friends of Raoul Follereau, I would like to add my encouragement to all persons affected by this disease and to all those who help them and those who in various ways work to eliminate poverty and marginalization, true causes of the persistence of this disease.

I would also like to mention the International Day of Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land. In profound communion with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custody of the Holy Land, let us pray for the gift of peace for that land blessed by God.

[In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear how the unclean spirit recognizes Jesus as the «Holy One of God». Let us pray that, despite the distractions of life and the apparent progress of evil, we may continue to put our faith in the Lord Jesus who is «the way, the truth and the life». I wish all of you a good Sunday. May God bless you!

[Again in Italian he said:]

And I greet with affection the Italian speaking pilgrims, in particular the faithful from Taranto, Bari and Civitavecchia, and the many young people of Catholic Action of Rome with their teachers and families. Dear young people, again this year you have participated in the «Caravan of Peace.» I thank you and I encourage you to bring the peace of Jesus everywhere. Two of you are here beside me. Let us now listen to Noemi’s message:

[Noemi read the message. The Holy Father responded:]

Thank you, Noemi, you did very well! And now we will release the doves that the children brought with them, as a sign of peace for the City of Rome and for the whole world.

[The Holy Father and one of the children released two doves. One returned to the Pope’s window sill while the other flew back inside the window of his apartment. In Italian the Holy Father said:]

They want to stay in the Pope’s house!

Have a good Sunday, everyone! Have a good Sunday!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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