‘He gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him’

Fourth Sunday of the Year B

In this reading, Jesus’ actions in healing the sick man show the power of God, while his teaching proclaims the coming of the kingdom. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

Mark 1:21-28

21 Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. 22 And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
23 In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted, 24 ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ 25 But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ 26 And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. 27 The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new,’ they said, ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ 28 And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

Other readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20 Psalm 94 (95) I Corinthians 7:32-35


After the call of the first disciples, the evangelist tells us of a healing worked by Jesus, the first miracle in this gospel. He reaches Capernaum, a busy town by the Sea of Galilee, which he made the centre for his ministry. His teaching impressed the people, for it was given with authority, with conviction. Jesus spoke the truth without fear. The people are even more astonished by the healing of the man who was ‘possessed by an unclean spirit’.

The initial part of the gospel is dominated by the words and the actions of Jesus. The healing actions show the power of God, while the teaching proclaims the coming of the kingdom. Jesus’ powerful deeds confirm the message of the coming of the kingdom of God.

The sick man was probably suffering from some kind of mental illness, and considered to be ‘possessed’.  All sickness was considered evil and in some way the work of Satan. The sick man was somehow a victim of evil. By healing him Jesus challenges and conquers the power of Satan. He demonstrates that the kingdom is near.

The reading from the book of Deuteronomy includes the words of Moses that God would one day raise up a great prophet, a prophet like Moses. This reading prepares us for the gospel reading and the fulfilment of that promise. Jesus, who is greater than Moses, speaks powerful words, words of truth, words which heal. The good news Jesus brings can change our lives as it changed the life of the sick man in the gospel.

What does this gospel say to us today?

What does the gospel tell us about sickness?

Let us pray for all those who care for the sick and work for their healing.

Le us pray for those who preach the gospel that they may do so with courage and love.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy