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Authority means service, love and humility

· At the Angelus Benedict XVI invokes peace for the Holy Land and requests prayers for those sick with leprosy ·

Authority, according to the human interpretation and authority according to God’s interpretation were at the heart of the Reflection that Benedict XVI offered the many faithful gathered  in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, 29 January for the prayer of the Angelus. Among those present were also numerous young members of the Children’s Catholic Action.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 1:21-28) 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 astonishment among the people, was followed by the liberation 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 combined with the efficacy of the word the efficacy of 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”.... For who that saw his power will hold his mind any longer in 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 writes: “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 liberates and guarantees our humanity, filling it with every grace and benevolence and with the power of love.




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 13, 2019