Jesus is stronger than the devil
“Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Quiet, come out of him!’ The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.”
A good friend of mine related this true story to me of an older priest he met while working at an inner-city soup kitchen. The older priest recounted a story of an exorcism experience that he encountered early in his priesthood while he was stationed in a diocese on the east coast. This priest, only a few years ordained at the time, was ask to be the exorcist of that particular diocese because of his piety and apparent holiness. At his first experience as an exorcist, he was sent by the diocesan authorities to a home of an elderly woman where he encountered a young man – her son, who was obviously in great emotional distress and anguish of soul. Sometime during the course of the exorcism, the young priest asked the young man why he was so troubled. The young man answered in a shrill-like voice, that he was possessed by an unclean spirit from hell – a demon. The priest then responded with the question directed to the unclean spirit, “Then what is your name or what do you call yourself!” The demon retorted, “My name is hatred for the Mother of God!” .
I don’t mind admitting to you that when my friend first told me this story, I got goose bumps, and the chills ran up and down my spine.
Today, we hear of about Jesus’ teaching authority in the synagogue in Capernaum and the healing of a man with an unclean spirit – an exorcism. The Gospels give us many accounts of Our Lord’s miraculous cures, but among the most outstanding are those of people possessed by the devil. Victory over the unclean spirit, as the devil is usually described, is a clear sign that God’s salvation has come: by overcoming the Evil One, Jesus shows that He is the Messiah, the Savior, more powerful than all the demons: Throughout the Gospel we see many accounts of this continuous and successful struggle of our Lord against the devil.
As time goes on the devil’s opposition to Jesus becomes ever clearer; in the wilderness it’s hidden and subtle; it’s increasingly noticeable and violent in the case of possessed people during Our Lord’s public ministry; and especially radical and total during Our Lord’s Sacred Passion – the devil’s “hour.” And Jesus’ victory also becomes ever clearer, when He triumphs completely by rising from the dead.
The devil is called unclean because of his impiety and withdrawal from God. In some ways the devil does recognize Christ’s holiness, but this knowledge is accompanied by hate and not charity. This serves as our reminder that virtuous acts must be accompanied by love of God in order to be meritorious! In addition to the historical fact of this cure, we can also see, in this possessed man, those sinners who must be converted to God and freed from the slavery to sin and the devil. They may have to struggle for a long time but victory will eventually come: the reality is that the Evil One is powerless against Christ.
The same authority that Jesus showed in His oral teaching at the beginning of this gospel episode is now to be seen in His outward actions – in this case an exorcism. His will is His command: He has no need of long prayers or incantations. Jesus’ words and actions already have a divine power which provokes wonder and fear in those who hear and see Him.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the devil’s great powers today in tempting and deceiving people is that many either deny his existence or are unaware of his powers. Being aware of his existence and his power is a large part in the battle of overcoming him. The other part is correct Faith nourished by regular prayer and frequent good works.
It’s ironic that in various Gospel accounts when Jesus performs an exorcism, the unclean spirits always profess to the truth of His authority as the Son of God made man, with power over them. We have to remind ourselves from time to time that the devil and his cohorts and those damned in hell, and even those who practice occult worship, all believe in the divinity of Christ. The devil’s greatest victory is to get people to become indifferent and lukewarm to practicing their Faith. Those that ignore God are the ones who are most deceived, and it usually goes hand in hand to the indifference as to the existence and power of the devil.
The devil is real and he prowls about like a lion ready to snatch souls away from Our Lord. Therefore, let us always be on guard against him. Let us pray and practice our Faith daily, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy chaplet, for an increase of faith and the will power to reject temptations when they come along.
Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us!
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Sunday, January 28th, 2018
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Mark 1: 21-28