Dear Friends in Christ,
With our twenty-first century mind-set, Jesus’ instructions to his disciples when he was sending them out to spread the gospel, can seem somewhat quaint: not to take anything for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bad, no extra tunic; to stay in a welcoming house, but if none could be found. To shake the dust of that town or village off their feet! Charming! A modern-day disciple wouldn’t get very far without a bank account, possibly a credit card, a car a hotel reservation, a mobile phone and email address. How times have changed!
We get that disciples have always preached repentance and anointed the sick with oil, but the command to drive out demons is a tricky one, as we largely think of demon possession or deliverance as an ancient or at least medieval concept. Current thinking tends to regard the symptoms of demon possession as some kind of psychiatric disorder or mental illness, and looks to psychiatrists and trained professionals for the answer.
Although the idea of duality – good versus evil, the power of God versus the power of the devil – is rather foreign to us these days, it is integral to the teaching of Scripture and the Church. Indeed, around the world on Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday we renewed our Baptismal promises and renounced Satan, the Prince of darkness. Do our words have any real meaning or are they simply a ritual or formula we repeat as part of the liturgy? Are we in truth rejecting Satan or the devil? These are questions that deserve due consideration.
Thankfully, we don’t simply rely on our own light and reason on this matter: we have the teaching of the Church, which in our own day is powerfully expounded in The Catechism of the Catholic Church published in 1994; and by Pope Francis himself, and of course many others. The Church has always taught that evil is real and that the devil exists. Although a powerful adversary, he cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign, and we overcome him through the cross and the name and blood of Jesus. Furthermore, like the apostles, priests, by virtue of their ordination, have received the ministry of deliverance and exorcism.