Jesus as exorcist
April 1st, 2015
By Deacon Christoph Sandoval
‘And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom: and healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria, and they presented to him all sick people that were taken with diverse diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had palsy, and he cured them.’ (Matthew 4:23-24)
In recent times we have seen manifestations of absolute evil in the Christian genocide of men, women and children being beheaded, crucified and burned alive. Christian churches are desecrated, holy relics and tombs are defiled and churches are burned to the ground. The world stands silent in the current global persecution of Christians who are hunted down as criminals by the Islamic State and Boko Haram and religious extremists of every shade and hue whose war cry is “Convert or die.” Is this evil rooted in fallen nature of man or is there something else at play?
Pope Francis urges us to call evil by its name, Satan. There are approximately 25 Bible verses where Jesus casts out demons. Christians over millennia have come to identify the particular practices that open the door to the diabolical. Cults in our culture are one of many ways in which a person may experience spiritual affliction. An estimated 5 million Americans have been involved in cults. In the U.S. there are 180,000 new recruits each year. The People’s Temple and the Church of Satan are well known cults in American history that have been a cause of tremendous human suffering and death.
How do we open the door to diabolical temptation, oppression, possession, infestation, disturbance and vexation?
We get an early warning in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.”
Our secular culture denies the existence of Satan and ascribes everything solely to mental illness with science as the only remedy. Pope Paul VI warned us: “The devil is a being that carries out dark actions … Penetrating the world and the church. He is our enemy and enemies hide; he is an actor. Evil is not just something lacking or a privation of good but evil is a living perverted spiritual being.”
As early as 315 Cyril of Jerusalem issued this teaching, “Flee every work of the devil. Do not listen to horoscopes or oracles of those who speak through magic filters or call on spirits. Avoid excess and sin. Do not use spells when sick. Go to the doctor and not the magicians. Do not spend too much time in doubtful places.”
There is one true deadly power in Satan’s artillery. Satan fights like hell to keep us sinning and to keep us away from the Holy One who forgives sin. The sacrament of reconciliation is truly the first exorcism. In this sacrament Jesus saves us from our sin and delivers us “out of the house of bondage.” The church inherits the mandate from Jesus to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons in the church’s sacraments. We can be confident with the words of Jesus to Peter: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the hell shall not prevail against it.”
Deacon Sandoval is facilitator of the drop-in Cathedral Grief Support Group. Open to all parishes, the group meets on third Wednesdays of each month, 10:30 a.m.-noon, Msgr. Bowe Room at the cathedral. Contact Sister Esther, (415) 567-2020, ext. 218. For a list of parish grief support groups please see www.sfarchdiocese.org/home/ministries/grief-consolation.
From April 3, 2015 issue of Catholic San Francisco.