Yesterday's reading for the mass began with these words, "John said to Jesus, "teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us."
Driving out demons. Is this really a situation we might encounter in life or is it a biblical myth or fable that has no bearing on our life, our love, our journey here and now?
This is what the church states,
"behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy...The church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God...they become evil by their own doing...scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning," who would even try to divert Jesus from his mission received from his father...the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."
It goes on to teach that the "power of Satan is nonetheless not infinite, He is only a creature, powerful because he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the build up God's reign. Although he may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, although his actions may cause grave injuries-spiritual and even of physical nature, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, "but we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."
So the answer is yes...it does have bearing on our life. THere is a seductive voice opposed to God that seeks to lead us astray. We should be attentive. We should exorcise the demons daily in our life. We know them because they are opposite the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Where the opposite reigns there the demon seeks to seduce.
Secondly, we should note the tragedy of John's statement. He stated, "we tried to stop them because they do not follow us." Here the shift in emphasis is so important. Already the devil is at work even in the disciples for they have lost sight in the fact that the focus should be on Christ and his name and not os much on them.
The one who was trying to cast out a demon in the name of Jesus was in deed choosing to be a disciple himself. He was seeking to belong to Christ and it is in belonging to Christ that we belong to the "us" that is spoken of by John.
Jesus' response rings true for all of us: Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name that can speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us."
Yet, we find that in our society Christians are opposed to one another. Christians, those who seek to follow Christ seem to be antagonistic to one another. We fight one another. We try to one up one another. We too like John lose sight of the importance of belonging to Christ first, then we belong to the each other.
It is exactly this division and antagonism that feeds the demons and enhances the diabolically work in the world.
It is unity Jesus entrust to us. It is unity that Jesus prays for. It is unity that his death and resurrection seeks to make a reality. We are one body of Christ. It is this unity in Christ that is the ultimate weapon against the attacks of the devil.
He who seeks to divide cannot abide where unity is strong.
We should pray for unity. we should work for unity. We should let truth in love unify. Then we exorcise demons in our world.