Archbishop Follo: A Word that Frees from Evil and Creates the New Man

With the invitation of listening to the Word of Christ so that He dwells in us and we become witnesses of his love and his truth.

Light of candles into a church

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Roman Rite – 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B – January 28th, 2018

Dt 18.15-20; Ps 95; 1Cor, 32-35; Mk 1: 21-28

 

Ambrosian Rite

Is 45.14-17; Ps 84; Heb 2: 11-17; Lk 2, 41-52

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – Feast of the Lord

 

1) 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.

 

2) Meeting the authoritative love.

The repetitive succession of time in Capernaum is broken – in the synagogue1 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.

 

Patristic reading

Golden Chain

on Mk 1:23-28

Bede,  Since by the envy of the devil death first entered into the world Sg 2,24, it was right that the medicine of healing should first work against the author of death; and therefore it is said, “And there was in their synagogue a man, &c.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The word, Spirit, is applied to an Angel, the air, the soul, and even the Holy Ghost. Lest therefore by the sameness of the name we should fall into error, he adds, “unclean.” And he is called unclean on account of his impiousness and far removal from God, and because he employs himself in all unclean and wicked works.
Augustine, City of God, 21: Moreover, how great is the power which the lowliness of God, appearing in the form of a servant, has over the pride of devils, the devils themselves know so well, that they express it to the same Lord clothed in the weakness of flesh. For there follows, “And he cried out, saying, What have we to do we Thee, Jesus of Nazareth, &c.”
For it is evident in these words that there was in them knowledge, but there was not charity; and the reason was, that they feared their punishment from Him, and loved not the righteousness in Him.
Bede: For the devils, seeing the Lord on the earth, thought that they were immediately to be judged.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else the devil so speaks, as if he said, ‘by taking away uncleanness, and giving (p. 26) to the souls of men divine knowledge, Thou allowest us no place in men.’
Theophylact: For to come out of man the devil considers as his own perdition; for devils are ruthless, thinking that they suffer some evil, so long as they are not troubling men.
There follows, “I know that Thou art the Holy One of God.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: As if he said, Methinks that Thou art come; for he had not a firm and certain knowledge of the coming of God. But he calls Him “holy” not as one of many, for every prophet was also holy, but he proclaims that the was the One holy; by the article in Greek he shews Him to be the One, but by his fear he shews Him to be Lord of all.
Augustine: For He was known to them in that degree in which He wished to be known; and He wished as much as was fitting. He was not known to them as to the holy Angels, who enjoy Him by partaking of His eternity according as He is the Word of God; but as He was to be made known in terror, to those beings from whose tyrannical power He was about to free the predestinate.
He was known therefore to the devils, not in that He is eternal Life, (see 1Jn 5,20 Jn 17,3) but by some temporal effects of His Power, which might be more clear to the angelic senses of even bad spirits than to the weakness of men.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Further, the Truth did not wish to have the witness of unclean spirits.
Wherefore there follows, “And Jesus threatened him, saying, &c.”
Whence a healthful precept is given to us; let us not believe devils, howsoever they may proclaim the truth.
It goes on, “And the unclean spirit tearing him, &c.”
For because the man spoke as one in his senses and uttered his words with discretion, lest it should be thought that he put together his words not from the devil but out of his own heart, He permitted the man to be torn by the devil, that He might shew that it was the devil who spoke.
Theophylact: That they might know, when they saw it, from how great an evil the man was freed, and on account of the miracle might believe.
Bede: But it may appear to be a discrepancy, that he should have gone out of him, tearing him, or, as some copies have it, vexing him, when, according to Luke, he did not hurt him. But Luke himself says, “When He had cast him into the midst, he came out of him, without hurting him.” (Lc 4,35) Wherefore it is inferred that Mark meant by vexing or tearing him, what Luke expresses [p. 27], in the words, “When He had cast him into the midst;” so that what he goes on to say, “And did not hurt him,” may be understood to mean that the tossing of his limbs and vexing did not weaken him, as devils are wont to come out even with the cutting off and tearing away of limbs. But seeing the power of the miracle, they wonder at the newness of our Lord’s doctrine, and are roused to search into what they had heard by what they had seen.
Wherefore there follows, “And they all wondered, &c.”
For miracles were done that they might more firmly believe the Gospel of the kingdom of God, which was being preached, since those who were promising heavenly joys to men on earth, were shewing forth heavenly things and divine works even on earth. For before (as the Evangelist says) “He was teaching them as one who had power,” and now, as the crowd witnesses, “with power He commands the evil spirits, and they obey Him.” It goes on, “And immediately His fame spread abroad, &c.”
Gloss.: For those things which men wonder at they soon divulge, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Mt 12,34)
Pseudo-Jerome: Moreover, Capernaum is mystically interpreted the town of consolation, and the sabbath as rest. The man with an evil spirit is healed by rest and consolation, that the place and time may agree with his healing. This man with an unclean spirit is the human race, in which uncleanness reigned from Adam to Moses; (Rm 5,14) for “they sinned without law,” and “perished without law.” (Rm 2,12) and he, knowing the Holy One of God, is ordered to hold his peace, for they “knowing God did not glorify him as God,” (Rm 1,21) but “rather served the creature than the Creator.” (Rm 1,25)
The spirit tearing the man came out of him. When salvation is near, temptation is at hand also. Pharaoh, when about to let (ed. note: Al. ‘dismissus ab Israel’ Ex 14) Israel go, pursues Israel; the devil, when despised, rises up to create scandals.

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

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