At midday on February 1, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and to reflect on the readings in today’s liturgy.
This Sunday’s Gospel passage narrates Jesus’ arrival with his disciples in the city of Capernaum, the birthplace of St. Peter and the largest city in Galilee at the time. St. Mark writes that, since it was the Sabbath, Jesus went immediately to the synagogue and began to teach. “This makes us think of the primacy of the Word of God, a word to listen to, receive and announce”, explained the Holy Father. Upon his arrival in Capernaum, Jesus does not delay in proclaiming the Gospel: “He does not think first of the logistical arrangements, certainly necessary, for his little community; nor does He take his time over organisation. His main concern is communicating the Word of God with the strength of the Holy Spirit. And the people in the synagogue are impressed, because Jesus ‘taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes’”.
“What does ‘with authority’ mean?”, asked the Pope, before explaining that in human words, Jesus felt “all the strength of the Word of God, He felt the same authority of God Himself, the inspirer of the Holy Scriptures. And one of the characteristics of the Word of God is that it accomplishes what it says”. Indeed Jesus, after preaching, immediately demonstrates His authority by freeing a man, present in the synagogue, from possession by a demon. “It was Christ’s authority that had provoked the reaction of Satan, hidden in that man. In turn, Jesus immediately recognized the voice of the devil and, severely rebuking him, ordered: ‘Quiet! Come out of him!’. With the strength of his word alone, Jesus freed the person from evil. And again those present were astounded. ‘He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him’. The Word of God creates this wonder in us. It possesses the strength to astonish us”.
“The Gospel is the word of life: it does not oppress people, but on the contrary, frees those who are enslaved by the many evil spirits of this world: the spirit of vanity, attachment to money, pride, sensuality; the Gospel changes hearts, changes lives, transforms the inclination to evil into good resolutions. The Gospel is capable of changing people. Therefore, it is the duty of Christians to spread this redeeming power everywhere, becoming missionaries and heralds of the Word of God. … The new doctrine that Jesus taught with authority is that which the Church brings to the world, along with the effective signs of His presence: authoritative teaching and the liberating action of the Son of God become the words of salvation and the gestures of love of the missionary Church”.
Pope Francis concluded by reminding those present that the Gospel has the strength to change life. “It is the Good News that transforms us only when we let ourselves be transformed by it. This is why I ask you always to make daily contact with the Gospel; to read a passage every day, to meditate upon it and to carry it everywhere with you, in your pocket or in your bag. … It is the power that changes us, that transforms us. It changes life, and it changes the heart”.