JESUS the Exorcist
Last weekend at Mass I mentioned that one of the primary themes of Mark’s Gospel which we are reading this year is the idea of JESUS as exorcist. In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28) we have the first of those stories with Our Lord setting a man free who is possessed by an evil spirit. As Our Lord approaches the man, the evil spirit cries out in a panic, “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.” And JESUS says, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And the man is immediately set free. This is an important incident because one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah would be that He would overthrow the devil and drive out demonic forces (Genesis 3:15). And this was the first of many such encounters in the Gospel.
It is very popular today to deny the existence of the devil, but the Gospel teaches us that he and the demonic world are very real indeed, and being fallen angels they want us to share in their eternal damnation. Sceptics also like to say that stories of possession in the Bible are nothing more than cases of epilepsy or psychological disorders which at the time were mistaken for something more sinister. There is no doubt Our Lord, Who is God, believed in the reality of Satan and the evil spirits, and He would certainly be able to tell the difference between demonic possession and physical or psychological disorders. In fact, he cured them all. The frequent exorcisms He performed are a sign of His power over evil and a proof of His authority to set people free. He has overthrown the power of sin and death and He wants us to share in that victory.
Genuine demonic possessions are very rare, so we should never worry about it, but we all suffer from temptations. Pope Francis says we shouldn’t approach the devil or talk to him because, “like a rabid chained dog, he’ll bite if you try to caress him. His proposals are nothing but lies, but we fools believe him.” Things such as horoscopes, Ouija boards, clairvoyants and fortune tellers are dabbling with evil and we must have nothing to do with them. Neither is there any such thing as “white” magic.
We are in this special Year of St Joseph who is invoked as “Terror of Demons”. St Joseph’s fatherhood has power and the two greatest people that ever lived on this earth, JESUS and Mary, subjected themselves to him. Now in Heaven, St Joseph’s intercessory power is a serious threat to the kingdom of darkness. The lily he holds in his hand (see St Joseph’s statue in the church) is like a sword of purity which will slay every form of filth and darkness if we invoke him. In the words of Fr Donald Calloway, an authority on St Joseph: “one word from his mouth routs the forces of darkness as an axe levels a field of trees.”
St Joseph, Terror of Demons, protect us.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC