When they came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around them and some teachers of the law arguing with them. When the people saw Jesus, they were astonished and ran to greet him.
He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man answered him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit, deaf and mute. Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.”
Jesus replied, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him.
As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it shook and convulsed the boy, who fell on the ground and began rolling about, foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him, “Why do you say, ‘If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately, the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.”
Jesus saw that the crowd was increasing rapidly, so he ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you: Leave the boy and never enter him again.” The evil spirit shook and convulsed the boy and with a terrible shriek came out. The boy lay like a corpse and people said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and the boy stood up.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive out the spirit?” And he answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.”
Few of us have ever witnessed or will ever witness a diabolic possession. Of course we have all seen films like The Exorcist (1973) and have perhaps heard of cases of possession through the grapevine, but we do not have a first-hand experience of what a diabolic possession really is. And that is why a story like that of today’s gospel reading does not really grip us. In fact, some people do not even believe that there is a Devil or that diabolic possessions exist.
But we do have what could be called our inner demons: irrational fears, beliefs, impulses which could take over our lives if we would let them. We are afraid of these strange forces and try to ignore them. But they do not go away. Only people of prayer can exorcise their inner demons and achieve deep peace. As Jesus says in our gospel reading, “only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.” For through persevering prayer we come to see the depth of our sinfulness, our utter powerlessness and need of God, our “lostness.” In prayer we implore God to exorcise our inner demons (pride, hate, lust, envy, etc.), and in time he always does. That is why the saints are so radiant.
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