Posted by: Fr Chris | October 26, 2019

Exorcism of the Demoniac, from Luke 8, and Us

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This gospel always comes near Halloween, and it is perfect for the season. It has  demons galore. It has a man possessed by devils who is living in a cemetery. He is so strong due to the devils that no chain can hold him in place. Jesus and the apostles land on the shore right after an enormous storm, and they walk into this disturbing scene. This Gospel is a story not only of conquering wickedness, but a story of redemption and mission. William Blatty, who wrote the famous book The Exorcist on which that film was based, always said that he intended his book to be a novel  of faith because where there are demons, there must be God. Demons exist to oppose God and to try and lead souls into darkness, whereas God leads us homeward into the light. When people experience death but come back from it, they always say they were going towards a light, except for the few who came back transformed into better people because they were terrified by the darkness that  reached out to clutch them.

St Paul writes to us today in Galatians, chapter 1: The gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. This gospel shows us the power of Christ, the Son of God, the Eternal Word, the bright Light of the World as He said in John chapter 8: I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.

The entire episode in Luke’s Gospel today comes immediately after Jesus stills the storm on the lake. That event showed His power over forces of chaos which the fierce storm represents. Now He will show His authority over the forces of Hell itself.    The whole episode is filled with rich symbolism that we don’t grasp unless we have access to good footnotes and commentaries in our bible.

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Naked man – the lack of clothing shows a lack of freedom. Slaves, prostitutes, and prisoners had to wear whatever was given them by their owners. To lose one’s right to clothe oneself meant they lost their identity and their civil rights as a member of a community. He is held by the forces of Satan, who keep him from being clothed.

He did not live in a house – to the ancients, that meant that he has lost his family, his heritage, his identity. He lives among the tombs of the dead.

Cemetery: he is living outside the safety of the city, alone and in danger of wild animals or thieves, among the corrupting bodies of the dead, in a place that no one would go to at night.

Names of the devils – We are legion: there were 6,000 soldiers in one Roman legion. This man is possessed by an incredible, truly unbelievable amount of wickedness.

Do not send us back to the abyss – Hell is so awful that even the devils did not want to return there. Why would anyone to whom the saving Gospel has been proclaimed want to test God’s mercy and live in a way that would lead us to Hell when even devils avoid it?

Pigs – these were the most frequently sacrificed animal among the Greek and Roman pagans then. Also female pigs with their offspring and wild boars were used as symbols of Roman power, and the standards of the Tenth Legion, which was the army occupying Syria-Palestine and would be involved in the destruction of Jerusalem, showed wild pigs.

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Through that expulsion of the demons and the destruction of the herd of pigs, Luke shows us that Christ:

restores the man’s identity not only by freeing him from the demons but by having him clothed, able to converse with other people, and so restoring him to his nation and family and his own free personhood;

– has victory over pagan worship – we are surrounded today by people who worship trends, or secular ideas with no religious input, and new values that are firmly against centuries of Judeo-Christian traditions. Just as the ancient Church triumphed over the pagan world despite the sins and failures of its members, we can do the same again in this society that has lost its way;

this victory is a liberation, to establish God’s authority and revelation;

 – the devils are subject to Christ’s power and decisions – they cannot conquer Him, they cannot even fight against Him.

Again, look at Saint Paul: the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. — this tradition that we hold to is that of  God Himself, commanded by God, revealed by God. We are here, presumably, because we believe this. But are we living it?

The people of Gerasa reject the man’s cure, his healing, his restoration, and the very presence of Christ. The man now becomes a missionary. Ultimately Gerasa was converted: the city which was famous for celebrations of the gods Bacchus and Artemis had eleven churches in it before it was abandoned following a series of earthquakes in the 700s.

The same conversion of a society can happen again. Our society which is drifting along, steadily losing its way, can be redeemed.  Just as the pagans were converted and the empire finally became Christian, this western society that jumps onto every idea that comes along yet seems to have totally lost any sense of forgiveness, will only find its healing and peace in this gospel. This gospel was revealed by God to humanity through Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.

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Muslim converts in Vienna, Austria 

Muslim refugees who are settling in post-Christian western Europe report dreams and visions of Jesus and of the Virgin Mary, and they are seeking out instruction and baptism in the very Churches abandoned by so many Europeans: ten thousand Muslims convert to the Catholic Faith every year in France.  The Faith that is so lightly abandoned by west Europeans and North Americans is firmly held to by those under communist power in China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. The very fact of new and vicious persecution in China proves their success and the threat it poses to atheistic communism. The Faith is booming in Africa, with both conversions and vocations; since 1980, the Catholic Church has grown by 238% in Africa.

We are all here today because we continue to hold to the apostolic faith and we believe that God’s message of hope and freedom is true. We believe that Jesus Christ has reopened the doors of heaven, as we see in the open Royal Doors behind me which reveal to us Jesus Christ on earth, living in the tabernacle in the form of consecrated Bread, and in His Word inside the Gospel Book from which Father just proclaimed this story. We are here because we are fed by both that Word and that consecrated Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We are here because we believe that Christ established His Church on earth, and that the forces of hell cannot overcome it. We are here because we have no desire to go to hell, and we wish to be in heaven after our deaths, to live in glory with the Holy Trinity and all the saints.

Here’s the thing: Am I living as if this is all true? Am I repelled by the sins of my past and do I want to go forward? The one way forward is with this Word of Jesus  Christ, in this Church established by Jesus Christ, living on the Holy Eucharist which is the living Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the God-Man Who came to redeem us. Do I live with confidence in God and His power? Do I project God’s love to those who come around me? Do I read, watch, and study things that will lead me into an appreciation for God’s power and grace? Remember, even the six thousand devils did not want to go back to hell, and none of us here today want to do so.  As much as they feared hell, we should desire heaven.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Albuquerque

One of the most consistent comments about our parish that I have heard for over 30 years is this: it is a welcoming community, while being solidly Catholic in faith. Unwed mothers are welcomed as warmly as a family with children, elderly people are embraced as much as babies, and parents faced with a struggling toddler are not hushed and stared at but asked if they need a helping hand. The man in the gospel today was not wanted by anyone except Jesus. There are far, far too many people in this city today who do not know that God wants them, that Jesus willingly died for them, and that we offer a path to heaven.

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I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: do you know someone who has fallen away from the Church? do you know someone who has been hurt by the Church? do you know someone looking for God? Invite them to come, sit with them, open the book with them, guide them, and take them into the hall afterward. Do you see someone who is new? Same thing: sit with them, guide them, invite them.

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Jesus did not sit at home waiting for the world to find Him in little Nazareth. Nor should we. People need to know that here they can find their true selves, as this man does, and that God’s eternal love waits for them here. If we really DESIRE heaven, then we should want to bring others with us. Saint John of the Cross wrote that God will ask us, How well did you love?

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And I think He will also ask us, Who did you bring with you?

 

What will I answer?

 

Christ is among us.


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