From a Friend of the ProLifeCorner- “What do you want of us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the holy One of God.”
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’s gospel from St. Mark, tells us that Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath and began to teach. The Saturday synagogue service provided Christ with His best opportunity to address a large crowd of the Jews. On the other days of the week they were working in their fields or vineyards.
The ruler or chief priest in each synagogue had the authority to invite a member of the congregation to address those present. Such an invitation generally went to the better educated and more eloquent among the Jews. It was through such invitations as this that Christ had several opportunities to speak in various synagogues.
St. Mark points out that the people who heard Him preach were spellbound. He taught with authority and not like the scribes. The customary method of preaching among the scribes was to quote the ancient rabbinical teaching and gave the most popular opinions on a subject. They generally refrained from giving definitive answers to questions proposed to them. In contrast to this, Christ taught with authority. He answered questions directly and positively.
There was present in the synagogue on this occasion a man possessed with an unclean spirit, who cried out, “What do you want of us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the holy One of God.” The devils had come to recognize that Christ had power to expel them. But at this early point in his public life, Christ had not yet claimed to be the Son of God or the Messiah.
Christ quickly ordered the devil to come out of the man and to be quiet. The devil convulsed the man violently and with a loud shriek came out of him. The Jews were dumbfounded at how the devil obeyed Jesus. In the Old Testament from the time of King Solomon exorcism rites came into use. Frequently the high priest or exorcist would put a ring on the possessed person. He would give him a mixture of herbs to drink and recite certain prayers. But more often than not, it had no effect on the person.
How different it was when Christ expelled them. The devils obeyed instantly. His power and authority were evident. Christ used this power of expulsion on several occasions. He even passed the power on to his Apostles and followers.
This power has been passed down to the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church today. It is a part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
A priest uses this power of exorcism each time he baptizes solemnly. He reads a prayer over the child he is baptizing. This does not imply that an un-baptized child is possessed; it implies rather that there is no room for the devil in the soul of a baptized Christian. There is no room for the devil in the soul when the Blessed Trinity dwells there in the form of sanctifying grace.
At other times when exorcism is conferred, it is with prayers, holy water, salt, and the sign of the cross. Holy water has great power against the powers of the devil. This is just another good reason to bless ourselves with holy water frequently, either at home, and especially when entering or leaving a Catholic Church which usually has its holy water fonts at the entrance of the Church.
The Eucharist is not used in the rite because of danger of irreverence to the sacrament.
Exorcism was used in the early Church far more than it is today. Writers like Tertullian, Origen and St. Justin Martyr speak of it frequently. But even though it is less common today, we should realize that the devil still possess great powers.
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 prayer and 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 lukewarm or indifferent to practicing their Faith. Those that are lukewarm or 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, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the use of holy water for an increase of faith and the will power to reject temptations when they come along – and they Will always come along.
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!