POPE BENEDICT XVI: REFLECTION ON THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
9 January 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 1:21-28) [4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B] presents to us Jesus, who was preaching on the Sabbath in the Synagogue of Capernaum, the little town on the Sea of Galilee where Peter and his brother Andrew lived. His teaching, which gave rise to wonder among the people, was followed by the deliverance of “a man with an unclean spirit” (v. 23), who recognized Jesus as “the Holy One of God”, that is, the Messiah. In a short time his fame spread across the region which he passed through proclaiming the Kingdom of God and healing the sick of every kind: words and action. St John Chrysostom pointed out that the Lord “varies the mode of profiting his hearers, after miracles entering on words, and again from the instruction by his words passing to miracles” (Hom. in Matthæum 25, 1: PG 57, 328).
The words Jesus addresses to the people immediately give access to the will of the Father and to the truth about themselves. This was not the case for the scribes who instead had to make an effort to interpret the Sacred Scriptures with countless reflections. Moreover Jesus united the efficacy of the word with the efficacy of the signs of deliverance from evil. St Athanasius notes that “for his charging evil spirits and their being driven forth, this deed is not of man, but of God”; indeed the Lord “drove away from men all diseases and infirmities”.… Those “who saw his power… will no longer doubt whether this be the Son and Wisdom and Power of God?” (Oratio de Incarnatione Verbi 18,19: PG 25, 128 BC. 129 B).
The divine authority is not a force of nature. It is the power of the love of God that creates the universe and, becoming incarnate in the Only-Begotten Son, descending into our humanity, heals the world corrupted by sin. Romano Guardini wrote: “Jesus’ entire existence is the translation of power into humility… here is the sovereignty which lowers itself into the form of a servant” (Il Potere, Brescia 1999, 141-142).
Authority, for human beings, often means possession, power, dominion and success. Instead for God authority means service, humility and love; it means entering into the logic of Jesus who stoops to wash his disciples’ feet (cf. Jn 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 wrote: “It is necessary for us to see and know, in truth, with the light of the faith, that God is supreme and eternal Love and cannot want anything but our good” (Ep. 13 in: Le Lettere, vol. 3, Bologna 1999, 206).
Dear friends, next Thursday, 2 February, we shall celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the World Day of Consecrated Life. Let us invoke Mary Most Holy with trust so that she may guide our hearts to draw always from divine mercy, which frees and guarantees our humanity, filling it with every grace and benevolence and with the power of love.
1 February 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year, among the Sunday celebrations, the liturgy proposes the Gospel of St Mark for our meditation. A unique characteristic of this Gospel is what is called the “messianic secret“: namely, the fact that, for the moment, Jesus does not want it to be known outside the small group of his disciples that he is the Christ, the Son of God. Moreover, at this point he warns both the Apostles and the sick whom he heals not to reveal his identity to anyone. For example, this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mk 1: 21-28) tells of a man possessed by the devil who suddenly shouts: “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”. And Jesus commands the spirit: “Quiet! Come out of him!”. And immediately the Evangelist notes the unclean spirit, with excruciating cries, came out of that man. Jesus not only drives demons out of people, freeing them from the worst slavery, but prevents the demons themselves from revealing his identity. And he insists on this “secret” because what is at stake is the success of his very mission, on which our salvation depends. Indeed, he knows that to liberate humanity from the dominion of sin he will have to be sacrificed on the Cross as the true Paschal Lamb. The devil, for his part, seeks to dissuade him so as to divert him instead toward the human logic of a powerful and successful Messiah. The Cross of Christ will be the devil’s ruin, and this is why Jesus always taught his disciples that in order to enter into his glory he must suffer much, he must be rejected, condemned and crucified (cf. Lk 24: 26), for suffering is an integral part of his mission.
Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for love. On close consideration, it was in this way that he gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that many men and women of every age have understood and made their own, experiencing profound tranquillity even in the bitterness of harsh physical and moral trials. And the theme that the Italian Bishops have chosen for their customary Message on the occasion of today’s Pro-Life Day is precisely “The strength of life in suffering”. I wholeheartedly make their words my own, in which is seen the love of Pastors for their people and their courage in proclaiming the truth the courage to say clearly, for example, that euthanasia is a false solution to the drama of suffering, a solution unworthy of man. Indeed, the true response cannot be to put someone to death, however “kindly”, but rather to witness to the love that helps people to face their pain and agony in a human way. We can be certain that no tear, neither of those who are suffering nor of those who are close to them, is lost before God.
The Virgin Mary kept her Son’s secret in her maternal heart and shared in the painful hour of the passion and crucifixion, sustained by her hope in the Resurrection. Let us entrust to her the people who are suffering and those who work every day to support them, serving life in all of its phases: parents, health care workers, priests, religious, researchers, volunteers and many others. Let us pray for them all.
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