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Gospel for Sunday, January 28: Mark 1:21-28

IV Sunday B

21 They went to Capernaum, and having entered the synagogue on the Sabbath itself, Jesus began to teach. 22 And they were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 Then a man who was in the synagogue, possessed by an unclean spirit, cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? You have come to ruin us! I know who you are: the saint of God.” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, “Be silent; come out of that man.” 26 And the unclean spirit, tearing at him and shouting loudly, came out of him. 27 Everyone was seized with fear, so that they asked one another, “What is this? A new doctrine taught with authority. He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 His fame immediately spread everywhere around Galilee.

Mk 1:21-28

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

This Gospel passage is an account of a typical day of Jesus (1:21-28). Jesus enters Peter’s town of Capernaum on Lake Tiberias. Here he teaches with exousia, that is, with authority: everyone grasped how Jesus taught with authority, and not like the scribes.

Immediately Jesus makes his power explicit with an exorcism. Certainly the activity of being an exorcist, that is, casting out demons, is a historical activity in Jesus’ life. In Mark’s Gospel, which is a short Gospel of only 16 chapters, no less than 4 exorcisms are recounted. Jesus is accused in ch. 3 of being in league with Beelzebub, i.e., the prince of demons, and even a Jewish work, the Babylonian Talmud, thus contrary to Jesus Christ, will say that Jesus was accused of magic by exorcism.

In the Jewish world contemporary with Jesus it was a belief that the devil was the origin of sickness, death, and sin. The demon tries to intimidate Jesus and proclaims, “I know who you are: you are the Son of God!” It is said that in Mark the real theologians are the demons, that is, they are the ones who reveal just who Jesus is all the time. The disciples, on the other hand, do not understand him, while the demons always intuit everything.

But Jesus “intimated” to them: the verb epitiman technically also means “to exorcise.” In pagan rituals there were magic rites, in the Gospel never. There is the threat, 1 order of the exorcist and finally the reaction and 1 effect on the possessed.

The monotheistic tradition did not allow any other presence before God: the same serpent of Genesis 3:1 was nothing but the most cunning of the wild beasts made by the Lord. In the Gospels, unlike the surrounding mentality, there is an extreme sobriety about the devil: it is the way physical evil and sickness is expressed, according to the culture of the time.

However, the demons are presented as intelligent beings, tempting Jesus, talking to him, confessing his divinity. But the great proclamation of the Gospel is that Jesus has come to bring demons to ruin (Mk 1:24): he is “the strongest” (Lk 11:22) who comes to destroy their power, and this is a sign “that the kingdom of God has come to you” (Lk 11:14-22).

The devil now no longer frightens us: this evil force is completely vanquished, subdued to the Lordship of the Lord, in whose name he is cast out and overcome, and this ability will be given to the disciples, who note the final fall of Satan (Lk 10:18-19).

Jesus thus comes to defeat evil, to free the world from the powers that enslave it, Jesus comes to heal our divisions, all of them, thus our schizophrenia, our anxieties, our depressions. We must take up this sense of Christ as healer today. Because it is useless for me to say, “Lord, you are my joy!” and then go outside and be more of a sourpuss than the others. Or, “Lord, you are my hope!” and then I am always pessimistic and I color everything black. Or, “Lord, you are my peace!”, and then I fill up on anti-anxiety medication because I can’t go on.

Holiness is lowering what we believe into experiential living: then truly Christ will animate in the meanderings of our hearts an endless feast.

II evil is an evil spirit, a master spirit, a spirit of self-assertion, a spirit of selfishness, a spirit of domination, a spirit of maximum profit. This spirit of domination and power is embodied, in the economic field, in exploitation and oppression; in the social field in the privilege of certain classes, certain castes, in imperialism, colonialism, racism, wars, violence, corruption; in the political field in the unbridled use of power; in the cultural field in ideologies; in the individual field in selfishness, pride, concupiscence of the flesh. Those who follow Christ are freed from these evil spirits, because Jesus has overcome them once and for all.

In the face of these exorcisms of Jesus, people were astonished, amazed (vv. 27-28). The one who wants to accept God must be astonished, have the capacity to wonder, and that is why Jesus says that to the wise and powerful of this world the Kingdom of God is precluded, while instead it is reserved for children, for little ones (Mt 11:25): because the child knows how to be enchanted, knows how to wonder. We have lost the ability to wonder, we are all sad and grumpy: instead, the Gospel tells us that we need to get excited, every day to look at the beautiful things that God continually does, to discover the wonders that take place in history.

Scripture is also not that boring book we always get from priests on Sundays. It is a Book to be read with surprise, in wonder and prayer. If we know how to wonder at these things, if we know how to marvel, if we know how to exult, to be impressed by the great event that is Christ, then truly Scripture, his powerful Word, becomes for us news of freedom.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


Spazio Spadoni

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