A word that frees from evil and creates the new man.

Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, January 28, 2024.

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 01.25.2023).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, January 28, 2024.

 An authoritative, new and liberating word.

Last Sunday we were invited to reflect on the vocation of Peter, Andrew, James and John. In the company of these four fishermen, whom Jesus called to become fishers of men, we continue the journey begun with the reading of the Gospel of St. Mark. In the passage we read today, the Evangelist tells us about the Messiah who goes to Capernaum. It is Saturday and even Jesus, like every Jew, goes to the synagogue for prayer and the reading of the Bible. Since, after the scribes and the elders, every Israelite could ask to intervene, Jesus takes the floor and teaches with an authority that amazes those who are present. This authority of teaching is then immediately followed by the authority of action that frees a possessed man. The devil is an intruder in man, who is a child of God. The word of the Son of God drives away evil and puts an end to a devastating and ruinous cohabitation.

Those who attend the scene in the synagogue «are amazed at the teaching of Jesus, because he taught as one who has authority and not as the scribes.»

Jesus teaches as one who has authority. The one who has authority is the one who not only announces the good news, but makes it happen. We can see this from the following passage: «In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;he cried out, «What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!» Jesus rebuked him and said, «Quiet! Come out of him!» The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. shouting loudly, came out of him. «(Mk 1: 23-26). The good news is God who is among men and frees them by giving them back their healthy and holy life.

The gospel (= good news) that is Christ himself and that He brings to us, is a new teaching which does not simply mean something never said before or never heard elsewhere. This is not simply a chronological novelty. In the word of Jesus the presence of the newness of God is felt, it is a qualitative novelty: something that regenerates and renews.

The novelty of Jesus broke into the world: his teaching cannot be reduced to a doctrine, a sublime lesson in theology or ethics to be imposed on the weak shoulders of man. The novelty is He himself, who asks only to be welcomed as a liberating force. Christ, who «brings every novelty bringing himself» (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons) with his word pronounced with authority, manifests the love of God. His is a word that works and frees those who are the victims of evil, ripping them away from the power of the Evil One to restore them to their dignity and freedom as children of God.

This gospel is addressed to us today so that we welcome it by asking to be cleansed of our sins and to make our own the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux: «I have committed a serious sin, the conscience will be disturbed but it will not be shaken because I will remember the wounds of the Lord. Therefore, if a remedy so powerful and efficacious comes to my mind, I can no longer be troubled by any disease, however malign … My merit, therefore, is God’s mercy, as long as He is full of mercy» (Discourse n.61 on the Song of Songs).

That of Christ is the authority of a person rich in divine mercy and humanity. While the scribes «teach» with the concern of interpreting the Law and elaborating a doctrine, Jesus «teaches» by showing the novelty of his life as the «fulfillment» of the Law. From this emerges an «authoritativeness» that generates amazement. It is not just a matter of a «doctrine» that is better, deeper or better constructed and directed towards intelligence, but of a force that, while being shown, mercifully transforms the ones who open themselves to accept it. That of Christ is a strong and, at the same time, sweet word that heals and frees from sin that is running away from God and from ourselves.

Meeting the authoritative love.

The repetitive succession of time in Capernaum is broken – in the synagogue[1] then and in the church today – by the meeting of Jesus of Nazareth with the locals among whom there is a man possessed by an impure spirit. Everyone was surprised and began to wonder: «What is this? A new teaching, full of authority. He commands the impure spirits and they obey him «.

Even today we are invited to meet, in the liturgy, the Lord who comes with his word, dictated with authority, to free us from the power of the Evil One who insinuates into us to take away what baptism has given us by making us children of God.

To steal the children from God, the devil insinuates the doubt in men by inducing them to think that God is not a Father but an enemy of our humanity.

The devil is an «impure spirit» because he aims to dirty our gaze by polluting it to the source; a stained gaze no longer sees the love of God, it loses its reasons for praising Him and therefore separates from Him.

Fortunately, even today Christ enters the «place where we are gathered» in prayer and comes to meet us. He «teaches with authority» during the liturgical celebrations, through the preaching and proclamation of the Word.

We need the «authority» of Jesus, so different from that of the «scribes». He does not speak with presumption, his chair is not far up, but next to the poor and sinners. Christ is authoritative because he brought the face of God to earth, gave flesh to his love for the Father and has «enclosed» his omnipotence in mercy.

Jesus does not speak in the name of God, as the scribes did. He is God. He descends with authority into the heart and heals it. Only He can heal us from evil by purifying the source of our evil attitudes.

The important thing is that our mind and our heart are turned towards Christ, namely converted towards Him together with our brothers and sisters. The journey that begins on this Sunday will end on the Cross. We walk looking at Christ, who, step by step, introduces us into the knowledge of his identity.

Let us be amazed at the unthinkable encounter with a God who does not crush man, but gives himself, loves him, and frees him so that he can live.

Let’s make the amazement of the listeners of the time become ours.

In today’s Gospel. St. Mark writes: «They were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who has authority and not as the scribes.» Everyone was amazed, almost incredulous, but perceived in His words the superior strength of grace, as St. Luke also wrote: «they were astonished by the words of grace that he pronounced» (Lk 4:22).

In meeting Christ, the «definitive» prophet, the attitude to have is that of a listening full of amazement.  It is a listening that demands a climate of inner silence and of amazed tension, a sign of the desire for knowledge in which an attitude of welcome and dedication is born and grows.

An example of this welcome and dedication comes from the Consecrated Virgins who testify that it is practicable what St. Paul says in the second reading of today’s Mass.

The Apostle of the Gentiles writes: «Brothers, I would like you to be without worries: those who are not married are concerned with the things of the Lord, how they may please the Lord; those who are married, on the other hand, are concerned with the things of the world, how they can please their wife, and find themselves divided! Thus, the unmarried woman, like the virgin, is concerned with the things of the Lord and to be holy in body and in spirit; the married woman, on the other hand, worries about the things of the world and how she can please her husband. I then say this for your own good, not to throw you a snare, but to direct you to what is worthy and keep you united to the Lord without distractions «(1 Cor 7: 32-35).

Today there are so many opportunities and distractions that lead us to neglect our relationship with God and to satisfy only our material needs. The teaching of St. Paul and the testimony of the consecrated Virgins show an alternative path for those who conceive love only in the horizon of present time and corporeality. The abuse of the term love and its various meanings makes us understand how problematic it is to choose the right way to live in the love of God and, in this divine love, to virginally love all our brother despite limitations and deficiencies.

[1] Synagogue is a Greek word that means ” meeting place”

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