Chapter I: From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church
This number of Evangelii Nuntiandi is a transition number. After describing the kingdom that Jesus announced, Pope Paul VI comes to speak about the words Jesus used to announce it. In doing so, the pope makes a strong profession of our faith in those words: “Christ accomplished this proclamation of the kingdom of God through the untiring preaching of a word which, it will be said, has no equal elsewhere” (emphasis mine).
He cites in the footnotes three places in the Gospels where the people of Jesus’ time noticed this power of Jesus’ word. The first was when he drove out an unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue of Capernaum. They said, “A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority” (Mk 1:27)! They didn’t mean by this that he merely spoke with strong conviction (cf. Mk 1:22) but that his word had actual power to drive out unclean spirits. Driving out unclean spirits instantly, as Jesus did, is a divine work. For us ordinary humans it can only be done by prayer (Mk 9:29). And the prayer is often long because it is requesting a conversion of the person. I don’t believe God allows anyone to be possessed by a demon unless that person wants it and invites it either directly or by submitting to some vice at the demon’s suggestion. When Jesus therefore drove out an unclean spirit from the man in Capernaum, he worked an instantaneous conversion in him, something only God can do (cf. conversion of St. Paul).
The second quote is from Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth: “They were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips” (Lk 4:22). But shortly afterward his word caused another reaction: “At these words the whole audience in the synagogue was filled with indignation” (Lk 4:28). The reaction of the people in Nazareth corroborates Pope Paul VI’s statement that His word “has no equal elsewhere,” both in its beauty and its power to evoke a response. It reminds us of the words of Simeon to Mary: “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare” (Lk 3:34f).
The third quote is the words of the temple guards to the chief priests and the Pharisees who had sent them to arrest Jesus during the Feast of Booths: “No man ever spoke like that before” (Jn 7:46). We know from chapter 7 of St. John’s Gospel some of the words of Jesus that the guards heard during that feast: “My doctrine is not my own; it comes from him who sent me” (Jn 7:16). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me; let him drink who believes in me. Scripture has it: From within him rivers of living water shall flow” (Jn 7:37). Indeed, His words have no equal elsewhere!
Mary, Mother of the Word of God, open our hearts to his words in the Gospel and teach us to direct our lives accordingly. Amen.