"It can change your life and heart."
VATICAN CITY — With Lent just over two weeks away, Pope Francis has called the faithful to make greater room in their lives for God’s word, by taking up the daily practice of quietly reflecting on the Gospels.
In his Sunday Angelus address to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope recalled St. Mark’s account of Jesus’ entrance into Capharnaum. The fact that Jesus went immediately to the temple with his disciples upon entering the city, he observed, points to “the primacy of God’s word.”
“It is a word to be listened to, a word to be received, and a word to be proclaimed.”
But it is also a word that possesses divine authority, the Pontiff said. In fact, St. Mark records the people’s astonishment at hearing Jesus preach, because he “taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (v. 22).
“What does ‘with authority’ mean?” the Pope asked. “It means that in the human words of Jesus the people felt all the power of God’s Word. They sensed the very authority of God, who inspired the Sacred Scriptures.”
“One of the characteristics of the Word of God is that it accomplishes what it says. For God’s Word corresponds to his will,” he observed. Therefore, while our words are often empty or superficial and do not correspond to the truth, “God’s Word does correspond to truth. It is one with his will and it accomplishes what it says.”
The Pontiff illustrated the point by noting that, after Jesus had finished preaching, he immediately demonstrates his authority by liberating a man present in the synagogue, who was possessed by a demon (cf. Mk 1:23-26).
“It was Christ’s divine authority that aroused the reaction of Satan, who was hidden in that man,” the Pontiff said.
"Jesus, in turn, immediately recognized the voice of the evil one, and with divine power ‘rebuked him, saying: Be silent, and come out of him!’” (v. 25). And his word effected what it said. The man was immediately freed from the demon's malevolent influence.
When Jesus liberated the man from the evil spirit, the people plainly saw that his word was not simply one among many, for they said: “With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (v. 27).
Yet Jesus exercises his authority not to oppress us, but to free us. “The Gospel is a word of life," the Pope said. "It does not oppress people. To the contrary, it liberates all those who are slaves of so many of this world’s evil spirits: vanity, love of money, pride, sensuality."
Pope Francis emphatically told the faithful: “The Gospel changes hearts. It changes lives. It transforms inclinations to evil into good resolutions. The Gospel is capable of changing people!” And that, he said, is why it falls to Christians “to spread its redeeming power everywhere, by becoming missionaries and heralds of the Word of God.”
He continued: “Always remember that the Gospel has the power to change your life! Never forget this. It is the Good News, which transforms us only when we allow ourselves to be transformed by it. That is why I always ask you to have daily contact with the Gospel, to read a passage each day, to meditate on it and also to carry it with you everywhere: in your pocket, in your bag, i.e. to draw nourishment for yourselves each day from this inexhaustible fount of salvation. Don’t forget! Read a passage of the Gospel every day. Its power changes us, transforms us: it changes our lives and changes our hearts.”
The Pope concluded by invoking the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin, “she who welcomed the Word and gave birth to him for the world, for all mankind. May she teach us,” he said, “to be assiduous listeners and authoritative heralds of the Gospel of Jesus.”
Diane Montagnais Rome correspondent for Aleteia's English edition.