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The cure of the demoniac

Today’s gospel is a story that we rarely hear about, but it still happens to many souls 2,000 years after our Lord Jesus Christ walked the earth. Yes we’re speaking of demonic possession and this is indeed a very interesting story. You can read it in Mark 1:21-28.

“[Jesus and his disciples] came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath [Jesus] entered the synagogue and taught. 22 The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him! 26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27 All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

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I may not have read the entire Bible from cover to cover, but in my readings, I have not come across of people speaking of a prophet who taught with authority. This is why the Jews were amazed about this Jesus of Nazareth who commands even the unclean spirits and obey him and, above all, he speaks with authority. This is why the fame of our Lord Jesus Christ spread like wildfire in Galilee. This is early in the ministry of our Lord.

Demons or unclean spirits after all are no longer flesh … but spirits that live in the dark world that often possess a human being and stay in that person for a long time. Being spirits, they have already encountered God in some way, which is why when they saw our Lord Jesus Christ they said, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” While the men of Galilee did not yet know who Jesus Christ is, the unclean spirits know who He is.

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What the men of Galilee only see in Jesus is His power over the unclean spirits, something that they never saw or heard from a prophet before. They of course cannot see that Jesus is a Divine person who has vast powers over humankind here on earth and also in heaven. In ancient times, demons were considered a higher form of being as they could enter a human body and control it, with nothing that man can do to remove it, until Jesus came to remove the unclean spirit. This was something new for the Jews, especially that this Jesus of Nazareth did so with an unheard of authority.

If Jesus then could drive out a demon, logic dictates that he must be more powerful than the demon for they obey his commands. There is no question that one of the biggest problems man ever faced is when there is demonic possession. That’s because the person possessed is totally powerless when taken over by a demon. Therefore it is necessary to get an outside source or a third party to cast out the demon.

That outside source at least in the Catholic Church is called the Exorcist. Way back in the 70s, “The Exorcist” was the blockbuster movie, and Hollywood made the world realize that demonic possession was still very much around. Even here, we’ve heard a lot of stories about school children being possessed by an evil spirit that usually makes the headlines.

At this point, allow me to remind you that one of the names of our Lord Jesus Christ is that of a healer, but in this gospel story, our Lord isn’t really healing a possessed person, but is exorcising a demon. This story is more than 2,000 years old, but we know too well that demonic possession still exists today. This is why the Catholic Church still has a bevy of priests who are specially trained as the official exorcists of the church.

Here in Cebu, I’ve heard more than enough stories that many demons could not be exorcised by our official exorcists. This reminds me of what the Evangelist Matthew wrote in Matt.17:19-20 “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, “Why could we not cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, because of your unbelief…” Obviously they had the authority from our Lord Jesus, but they still lacked strong faith. As our Lord said, some evil spirits are stronger and harder to drive out and it can only be done through prayer and fasting.

I guess the key to being a good exorcist is to have a strong faith in God and while being an exorcist is one of the toughest jobs in the Catholic Church, in truth, exorcising demons must be in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So in reality, when a priest becomes an exorcist, he is really doing it in persona Christi, just like when he concentrates the Sacred Host; it is Jesus doing it for He is with us till the end of time.

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