Pope Francis: ‘The Gospel Has the Power to Change Life’
On Feb. 1, the Holy Father said: ‘The Gospel changes the heart! It changes life; it transforms the inclination to evil to resolutions of good.’
VATICAN CITY — In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis pointed to the authority with which Jesus preached, saying that his words in the Gospel aren’t aimed to limit, but, rather, liberate us from evil and worldly spirits.
“The Gospel is the word of life: It does not oppress people, (but), on the contrary, it frees those who are enslaved by so many evil spirits in this world: vanity, the attachment to money, pride, sensuality,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square on Feb. 1.
What does the Gospel do? He said it “changes the heart; the Gospel changes the heart! It changes life; it transforms the inclination to evil to resolutions of good.”
Pope Francis centered his reflection on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, in which those present in the synagogue were “amazed” at the authority with which Jesus preached, as well as his act of freeing a man possessed by an evil spirit.
One of the first things Jesus does after entering Capernaum with his disciples is go to the synagogue, the Pope observed, noting how Jesus was more concerned with communicating the word of God than with taking care of the logistical organization of his community.
“And the people in the synagogue are struck, because Jesus ‘taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes,’” the Pope noted.
To speak with authority the way that Jesus did “means that, in the human word of Jesus, the strength of the word of God was felt, the same authoritativeness of God was felt, inspirer of the holy Scripture,” he said.
One of the key characteristics of God’s word is that it accomplishes what it says, because the word of God corresponds to his will, the Pope explained.
While we often pronounce “empty words, without roots or superfluous words, words that do not correspond with the truth,” the word of God always corresponds to the truth and is united to whatever he says and does, the Pope noted.
Jesus proves his authority when, immediately after preaching, he frees a man possessed by an evil spirit, he said, observing that it was precisely Jesus’ divine authority that brought on Satan’s reaction.
For his part, Jesus “immediately recognizes the voice of evil and rebuked him and said, 'Quiet! Come out of him!’” the Holy Father said, explaining that Jesus frees the man “with only the strength of his word.”
“The word of God astonishes us with that strength. It astonishes us well,” the Bishop of Rome said.
It is the “duty” of Christians to spread this redeeming power everywhere and to become true missionaries and preachers of God’s word, he said.
The day’s Gospel passage also closes with this missionary openness when it recounts how Jesus’ fame “spread everywhere” throughout Galilee, he noted, saying that this “new doctrine” taught by Jesus is what the Church brings to the world, along with the authoritative teaching of the magisterium.
“Always remember that the Gospel has the power to change life! Do not forget this! That is the Good News that transforms us only when we allow ourselves to be transformed by it,” the Pope said, and he urged those present to read a passage of the Bible every day.
He then asked for the intercession of Mary in assisting all to be “assiduous listeners” of God’s word and led the faithful in the recitation of the traditional Marian prayer.
After praying the Angelus with the pilgrims gathered, Pope Francis acknowledged how Italy was celebrating the “Day for Life,” which had as its theme “Solidarity for Life.”
“When we open ourselves to life, and life is served, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness,” he said, noting that this openness to life is “beginning a new humanism: the humanism of solidarity.”