Sacraments - our first line of defense against evil

01-28-2018HomiliesFr. Chad King

Even though it is not a popular belief today or topic in some churches; let me be clear from the beginning- Satan does exist. In fact, one of the tactics of the Devil is to get others to believe he doesn’t exist. For if there is no Evil One, then neither must there be a Holy One. However, there is a devil. Scripture is clear on this point, and calls Satan- the ‘prince of darkness’, ‘the accuser’, the ‘father of lies’, a ‘liar and a thief’. Satan, and all his demons, have one objective- to steal away the life of God in humans and lead to the demise and damnation of every person’s soul. God is the author of life, and Satan does all he can to lead us away from that life- both joy and happiness on this earth as well as eternal life. And so, this battle for our soul is very real and serious, but we need not be overly fearful. Our God is the all-powerful faithful God, and our Church is a protective Church, and our faith, rooted in Scripture, including our Gospel today, instructs us about this battle that is raging for our souls. Let me unpack this Gospel, to enlighten us of its truths and meaning for our lives.

Our Gospel is from Mark chapter 1- it comes right after Jesus called and James, John, Andrew, and Simon start to follow Jesus.  So right away, Mark is telling us something very important at the start of Jesus’ public ministry. Mark begins by saying, “Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum on a sabbath and began to teach. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes”.  A synagogue was kind of like today’s local parish. Each village or community had their own synagogue in which the Jews would gather every Sabbath to hear the scribe, or scholar of the law, teach about the Law of Moses- so kind of like the Liturgy of the Word as we know it in today’s Mass. The synagogue is different than the temple, of which there was only one- in Jerusalem- and only there were the sacrifices done by the priests for the atonement of sins. The synagogue was kind of ran by the lay people, by the Jews and they would listen to the rabbi, or known as scribe, who were educated in the Torah. To become a rabbi, a privileged young boy would be discipled by a rabbi for many years, and when he was fully educated and ready- that rabbi would give his authority for the disciple to then give some teachings and reflections on the law. So that the authority a scribe taught from was from another rabbi. Naturally, the people all knew each other in the community, and knew their scribes who taught them week in and week out.

Therefore, when Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and began to teach, it must have been kind of shocking and new. It is possible some of them might have only heard others speculate if Jesus was the Messiah- but they certainly didn’t know Jesus- who he was, where he came from, or certainly not where his authority is from. But, the Gospel indicates that Jesus doesn’t bother giving his credentials; No, he begins to teach on his own. And the people realized that what Jesus was saying was as if He had authority in Himself, not from another rabbi. For there is a certain power when the message impacts- as only from the Holy Spirit. So, I pray that today and each time I preach, and that you may receive every message, with the power of the Holy Spirit!

Mark’s Gospel continues, “in their synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit”. An unclean spirit meant a man’s spirit wasn’t pure or holy- he didn’t have the Holy Spirit in him- but instead was possessed by an evil spirit. Sadly, that someone is possessed by a demon wasn’t shocking- as we read many times in the Scriptures- there were a lot of people possessed by Satan- just as there are many people today. So although it is possible that this man was a visitor to that synagogue like Jesus was- it is more likely that the man with the unclean spirit was a ‘regular’ who people knew, but everyone was powerless in exorcising or healing of his unclean spirit.  Therefore, no one was expecting an exorcism in the middle of the service. Look around you- can you imagine someone next to you being possessed by a demon- thankfully that hasn’t happened- and I will explain in a little bit why that hasn’t happened. However, upon hearing Jesus speak- this evil spirit blurted 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!”. Now, all of a sudden, the evil spirits are threatened. The demons must have been controlling that man who was just going about the motions of the synagogue- just blending in with the crowd- having their way with this man for quite some time, but now with the Presence of Jesus- the evil spirits are threatened. They are threatened because the demons knew who Jesus is- knew that He has the authority- not just to teach about the law- but the power to destroy the Evil One. This is a reference back to Genesis 3:15, in which the offspring of the woman would destroy the offspring of Satan. The demons knew Jesus was the Messiah- the Holy One of God- the One who was filled with the Holy Spirit- who would defeat the works of Satan. Therefore, Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed, but immediately came out of him. At the sight, all the people undoubtedly were amazed and recognized that Jesus’ words have special power. Not only were Jesus’ words inspiring and good to listen to, but they were effective- what He said, actually came about.  The same Spirit of God is at work in our midst today. Are we letting the words of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit affect us?

There is one last point that I need to make about what this Gospel means for us today, and that is why there isn’t somebody here in this Church now who is possessed by a demon. Simply put- Jesus is truly present!  A demon cannot stand to be in a place where God is present. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 550 states, “Jesus’ exorcisms free individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over the ‘ruler of this world’ (which is Satan). The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross”. Jesus is truly present in this and every Catholic Church- every Mass is the Cross of Christ made present- so through every Mass the power of the Cross is made effective in us. Likewise, in every Mass, the living Jesus says, “This is my body, this is my blood”. And as always, the words of Jesus are effective- they bring about what is said. By us receiving Holy Communion- if we are not in the state of mortal sin- then we are forgiven of every venial sin. Therefore, the Sacraments are the first line of defense against the attacks of the Evil One. If we commit mortal sin- which includes intentionally missing Mass- then we are susceptible and opening ourselves up to Satan activity in us.  If we are just going through the motions of our faith, like this man was in our Gospel; if we are not letting the words of Jesus or the Holy Spirit be effective in us, then we are susceptible. However, regularly coming to Mass and confession not only forgives us of our sins but also prevents and strengthens us against the attacks of the Evil One.  Therefore, if you, or a loved one, do not want to ever be dominated, or even influenced, by a demon- regularly receiving Sacraments, with all our hearts, are the first line of defense. So, let us here and now, prepare our hearts to receive Jesus inside us and let the Holy Spirit be effective in us against the power of the Evil One.