Demons


Demons - Pope Francis     

11.10.13  Holy Mass  Santa Marta     Luke 11: 15-26


There are priests who, upon reading this passage and other similar Gospel passages, say: 'Jesus healed a person from a psychological  illness'. Of course, it is true that in those times it was possible to confuse epilepsy with demonic possession, however it is also true that the devil existed. And we do not have the right to oversimplify things by getting rid of them as if we were dealing with one who is psychologically ill and not with someone who is possessed. Jesus, came to destroy the work of the devil in order to free us from his slavery.

Returning to the Gospel, Jesus offers us several criteria to help us understand the devil's presence and respond to it. The first criteria the gospel passage offers is that we cannot obtain the victory of Jesus over evil and the devil by halves. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters”. We cannot continued to believe it is an exaggeration to say: “either you are with Jesus or against  Jesus”. On this point, there is no shadow of a doubt. A battle exists, a battle in which the eternal salvation of us all is at stake. And there are not alternatives, even if at times we hear about “pastoral proposals” that seem more accommodating. “No! Either you are with Jesus, or you are against him. This is how it is, and this is one of the criteria.

A final guide is watchfulness. We must always be vigilant against the deception and seduction of the evil one.  “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace”. We can ask ourselves: Do I keep watch over myself? Do I guard my heart? My feelings? My thoughts? Do I guard the treasure of grace? Do I protect the Holy Spirit's presence within me? If we do not protect it, one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted, and divides his spoil.

These, then, are the criteria for responding to the challenges posed by the devil's presence in the world: the assurance that “Jesus battles against the devil”; “he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus”; and “watchfulness”. We need to keep in mind, that “the demon is shrewd: he is never cast out forever, that will only be so on the last day”. Because “when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says: 'I will return to my house from which I came'. And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil that himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first”.

His strategy is this, you become a Christian, go forward in your faith, and I will leave you alone; I will leave you in peace. But then, once you have grown accustomed to it and you are not so vigilant and you feel secure, I will return. Today's Gospel begins with the demon being cast out and ends with the demon coming back. St Peter said he is like a roaring lion prowling around us”. And this is not a lie, “it is the Word of the Lord”.

“Please, let's not do business with the devil. The devil's presence is on the first page of the Bible and it also ends with the devil's presence, with God's victory over the devil”. Demons are always returning with their temptations,  “we shouldn't be naive”.

Let us ask the Lord, for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to battle for our salvation, he has conquered the devil.


Pope Francis          13.02.14   Holy Mass  Santa  Marta         1 Kings 11: 4-13,          Mark 7: 24-30
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Today the Church invites us to reflect on the journey from paganism and idolatry to the living God, and also on the journey from the living God to idolatry.

The Gospel tells us that, in turning to Jesus, the woman is “brave”, like any “desperate mother” who would do anything “for the health of their child”. “She had been told that there was a good man, a prophet, and so she went to look for Jesus, even though she “did not believe in the God of Israel”. For the sake of her daughter “she was not ashamed of how she might look before the Apostles”, who might say amongst themselves “what is this pagan doing here?”. She approached Jesus to beg him to help her daughter who was possessed by an unclean spirit. But Jesus responds to her request saying “I came first for the sheep of the house of Israel”. He “speaks with harsh words”, saying: “Let the children help themselves first, because it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs”.

The woman — who certainly had never attended university — did not respond to Jesus with intelligence, but instead with a mother's gut, with love. She said: “Even the dogs under the table will eat the children’s crumbs”, as if to say: “Give these crumbs to me!”. Moved by her
faith, “the Lord worked a miracle”. She returned home, found her daughter lying on her bed, and the demon was gone.

Essentially, it is the story of a mother who risked making a fool of herself, but still insisted out of love for her daughter. She left “paganism and idolatry, and found health for her daughter” and, for herself she “found the living God”. Hers is “the way of a person of good will, who
seeks God and finds him”. For her faith, “the Lord blesses her”. This is also the story of so many people who still “make this journey”. “The Lord waits for” these people, who are moved by the Holy Spirit. “There are people who make this journey every day in the Church of God, silently seeking the Lord”, because they “let themselves be carried forward by the Holy Spirit”.

However, there is also “the opposite path”, which is represented by the figure of Solomon, “the wisest man on earth, who had received many great blessings; he had inherited a united country, the union that his father David had made”. King Solomon had “universal fame”, he had “complete power”. He was also “a believer in God”. So why did he
lose his faith? The answer lies in the biblical passage: “His women made him divert his heart to follow other gods, and his heart did not remain with the Lord, his God, as the heart of David his father did”. 

Solomon liked women. He had many concubines and would travel with them here and there: each with her own god, her own idol. “These women slowly weakened Solomon’s heart”. He, therefore, “lost the integrity” of the faith. When one woman would ask him for a small temple for “her god”, he would build it on a mountain. And when another woman would ask him for incense to burn for an idol, he would buy it. In doing so “his heart was weakened and he lost his faith”.

"The wisest man in the world” lost his faith this way. Solomon allowed himself to become corrupt because of an indiscreet love, without discretion, because of his passions. Yet, you might say: “But Father, Solomon did not lose his faith, he still believed in God, he could recite the Bible” from memory. Having faith does not mean being able to recite the Creed: you can still recite the Creed after having lost your faith!.

Solomon, was a sinner in the beginning like his father David. But then he continued living as a sinner and became corrupt: his heart was corrupted by idolatry. His father David was a sinner, but the Lord had forgiven all of his sins because he was humble and asked for forgiveness. Instead, Solomon’s “vanity and passions led” him to “corruption”. For, the Pope explained, “the heart is precisely the place where you can lose your faith”.

The king, therefore, takes the opposite path than that of the Syro-Phoenician woman: "she leaves the idolatry of paganism and comes to find the living God”, while Solomon instead “left the living God and finds idolatry": what a poor man! She was a sinner, sure, just as we all are. But he was corrupt.

I hope that “no evil seed will grow” in the human heart. It was the seed of evil passions, growing in Solomon’s heart that led him to idolatry. To prevent this seed from developing: “Receive with meekness the Word that has been planted in you and it can lead you to salvation”. With this knowledge, we follow the path of the Canaanite woman, the pagan woman, accepting the Word of God, which was planted in us and will lead us to salvation. The Word of God is powerful, and it will safeguard us on the path and prevent us from the destruction of corruption and all that leads to idolatry.



Pope Francis       30.01.15 Holy Mass Santa Marta        Hebrews 10: 32-39,       Psalms 37: 3-6, 23-24, 39-40,        Mark 4: 26-34

"The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord” (Ps 37[36]:39). This Psalm verse, reminds us of the truth that “salvation is a gift the Lord gives”: it can’t be bought nor obtained through study, for it is always a gift, a present. But the real question is: “How to protect this salvation? What to do so this salvation remains in us and bears fruit, as Jesus explains, like a seed or kernel of mustard?” Mark (4:26-35).

Hebrews (10:32-39), there are criteria to protect this present, this gift of salvation; in order to allow this salvation to go forth and bear its fruit in us.

The first criterion is that of
memory. In fact, we read in the text: “Brethren, recall the former days, after you received the light of Christ”. Those are “the days of the first love”, as the prophets say: it is “the day of the encounter with Jesus”. Because, when we encountered Jesus, or better yet, when “He let Himself be encountered by us, for it is He who does all” — “it brought great joy, the will to do great things”, as the same author of the Letter explains. Therefore, the first criterion to protect the gift of salvation is “not to forget those first days” marked by “certain enthusiasm”: most of all, “do not forget” that “first love”.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews then goes on, emphasizing the “joy that enabled you to bear all things”, to a point when “all seemed meagre in those former days, and one went forth with enthusiasm”. The Letter exhorts us not to abandon that courage — namely ‘this honesty’ — that parrhesìa of those former days. It is indeed that “first love” which made grow within us that courage, that ‘let’s go on!’, that enthusiasm.

The call, however, is to not abandon honesty. But, “abandon” is not even the right word, if we go to the original text we find a powerful expression: “Do not throw away, do not waste, do not reject honesty”. It is like a rejection: do not push away this honesty, this courage, the courage of the former days.

This is why memory is so important, to remember the grace received. Indeed, if we push away this enthusiasm which comes from our memory of that first love, this enthusiasm which comes from the first love then what comes is that serious danger to Christians: warmth. For
lukewarm Christians stay there, idle; and yes, they are Christians, but they have forgotten that first love, they have lost their enthusiasm. What’s more, lukewarm Christians have also lost patience, that ‘tolerating’ things in life with the spirit of Jesus’ love; that ‘tolerating’, that bearing difficulties “on one’s shoulders’. This is why, lukewarm Christians, the poor souls, are in grave danger.

In this regard, there are two images which really strike me, and of which each person should be warned: “But you are lukewarm, be careful!”. St Peter, in his Second Letter, uses the image of the dog who turns back to its own vomit. And this image is distasteful, however, it is a fitting example of “the lukewarm Christian” who returns to that “first love, as if that love never existed”.

The second image, also unpleasant is the one that Jesus recounts of the person who wants to follow Him, and does follow Him, and then He casts out the
demon. This demon, who has gone out of the man, passes through the desert with the intention of returning to that man, to that woman from which he came. And when he returns, he finds the house in order, clean and nice. Thus he gets angry, goes, looks for seven demons worse than him and returns to take possession of that house. And in this way the person isn’t wounded, because it involves ‘polite’ demons: who even knock on the door to come in, but they do come in. The same happens to a lukewarm Christian who doesn’t know who is knocking at the door and opens it, even saying come in! But, Jesus says, in the end, that soul ends up even worse than before.

These two images of the warmth of the Christian make us think. This way we must never forget our first love; rather, we should always remember that first love. This is why the answer to the question how do I go on? is: “with
hope”. That is what the Letter to the Hebrews says to every Christian: For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry.

And thus there are two parameters available to the Christian: “memory and hope”. Ultimately it means reclaiming the memory so as not to lose that most beautiful experience of the first love which nourishes our hope. So often, hope is dark. But the Christian goes forward. He believes. He goes, for he knows that hope does not disappoint, to find Jesus.

These two parameters are the very framework in which we are able to protect this salvation of the righteous which comes from the Lord, this gift of the Lord. We must protect this salvation, for the little mustard seed to grow and bear its fruit. However, many Christians, cause pain, create heartache — so many Christians!. They are the many Christians who go halfway and fail along this path toward the encounter with Jesus. Even if the journey began with the encounter with Jesus, in the middle of the road, they have lost the memory of that first love and have no hope.

Ask the Lord for the grace to protect the present, the gift of salvation. It is a gift that each Christian must protect on this journey that always reclaims the memory and hope. But, He alone can give us this grace: may He send us the Holy Spirit to walk on this path.


 

 

This is what Jesus’ life was like: he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (Mk 1:39). Jesus who preaches and Jesus who heals. The whole day was like this:
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preaching to the people, teaching the Law, teaching the Gospel. And the people look for Him to listen to Him and also because He heals the sick.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.... And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk 1:32, 34).

And we are before Jesus in this celebration: Jesus is the One who presides at this celebration. We are priests in the name of Jesus, but He is the President, He is the true Priest, who offers the sacrifice to the Father. We could ask ourselves whether we let Jesus preach to us. Each one of us: “Do I let Jesus preach to me, or I know know all? Do I listen to Jesus or do I prefer to listen to something else, perhaps people’s gossip, or stories...”. Listening to Jesus.

Listening to Jesus’ preaching. “How can I do this, Father? On which TV channel does Jesus speak?”. He speaks to you in the Gospel! And this is an attitude that we still do not have: to go to seek the word of Jesus in the Gospel. To always carry a Gospel with us, a small one, or to have one at our fingertips. Five minutes, 10 minutes.

When I am travelling or when I have to wait..., I take the Gospel from my pocket, or from my bag and I read something; or at home. And Jesus speaks to me, Jesus preaches to me there. It is the Word of Jesus. And we have to get accustomed to this: to hear the Word of Jesus, to listen to the Word of Jesus in the Gospel. To read a passage, think a bit about what it says, what it is saying to me. If I don’t feel it is speaking to me, I move to another.

But to have this daily contact with the Gospel, to pray with the Gospel; because this way Jesus preaches to me, He says with the Gospel what He wants to tell me. I know people who always carry it and when they have a little time they open it, and this way they always find the right word for the moment they are living in. This is the first thing I wanted to say to you: let the Lord preach to you. Listen to the Lord.

And Jesus heals: let yourselves be healed by Jesus.

We all have wounds, everyone: spiritual wounds, sins, hostility, jealousy; perhaps we don’t say hello to someone: “Ah, he did this to me, I won’t acknowledge him anymore”. But this needs to be healed!

“How do I do it?”. Pray and ask that Jesus heal it”.

It’s sad in a family when siblings don’t speak to each other for a small matter; something stupid*1,  because the devil takes a small matter, something stupid and makes a world of it. Then hostilities go on, and multiply for many years, and that family is destroyed. Parents suffer because their children don’t speak to each other, or one son’s wife doesn’t speak to the other, and thus, with jealousy, envy.... The devil sows this. The devil is the "father of hate", the "father of lies" who seeks disunity. But God wants unity. If in your heart you feel jealousy, this is the beginning of war. Jealousies are not of God. *1

And the only One who casts out demons is Jesus. The only One who heals these matters is Jesus.

For this reason I say to each one of you: let yourself be healed by Jesus. Each one knows where his wounds are. Each one of us has them; we don’t have only one: two, three, four, 20. Each one knows! May Jesus heal those wounds. But for this I must open my heart, in order that He may come. How do I open my heart? By praying. “But Lord, I can’t with those people over there. I hate them. They did this, this and this...”. “Heal this wound, Lord”. If we ask Jesus for this grace, He will do it. Let yourself be healed by Jesus. Let Jesus heal you. Let Jesus preach to you and let Him heal you. This way I can even preach to others, to teach the words of Jesus, because I let Him preach to me; and I can also help heal many wounds, the many wounds that there are. But first I have to do it: let Him preach to me and heal me.

When the bishop comes to make a visit to the parishes, we do many things. We can also make a nice proposal, a small one: the proposal to read a passage of the Gospel every day, a short passage, in order to let Jesus preach to me. And the other proposal: to pray that I let myself be healed of the wounds I have. Agreed? Shall we sign? Okay? Let’s do it, because this will be good for everyone. Thank you.

*1  Vatican Radio 02.09.15


Pope Francis      12.10.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta          Luke 11: 15-26
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When the devil takes possession of a person’s heart, he makes it his home not wanting to leave, and tries to ruin the person and harm him even physically.

The struggle between
good and evil in us human beings is the true struggle between the first struggle between God and the ancient serpent, between Jesus and the devil

The devil’s purpose and vocation is "to destroy the work of God". When the devil cannot destroy “face to face” because God is a greater force that defends the person, then he, cunning and "smarter than a fox", seeks ways to regain possession of that person.

The
demon returns after being cast out, he very politely says he has returned when in fact he was thrown out. Finding the home “swept and adorned", he brings along with him several other spirits worse than him, and they enter and make it their residence, and the condition of that person becomes worse than before.

He make us feel comfortable that we are Christians, Catholics who go to Mass and pray. We do have our defects, our sins, but everything seems to be in order. Acting like a polite person the demon goes about to find a weak point and knocks at the door, saying, "Excuse me? May I come in?" and rings the bell. These demons are worse than the first ones, because you don't realize they are at home. They are the worldly spirit, the spirit of the world.

The devil either destroys directly with vices, wars or injustices or he does so politely and diplomatically the way Jesus describes. Working silently, they make friends and persuade you on the road to mediocrity, making you "lukewarm" with
worldliness.

Christians watch out against falling into this spiritual mediocrity, into this "spirit of the world", which "corrupts us from within". I am more afraid of these demons than the first.

When someone asks for an
exorcist for a person possessed by a demon, I am not that worried, but I am worried when people open their doors to polite demons who persuade them from within as friends.

I often ask myself whether it is better to have a clear sin or to live in the spirit of the world.