Tuesday 20 April 2021

Casting out demons

Reflection given at morning worship for the Community of Brendan the Navigator on Tuesday 20th April 2021

We’ve just heard Luke tell us (Luke 4:31-37) about how Jesus healed a man with an ‘unclean spirit’ in the Synagogue in Capernaum. In Jesus’s time all kinds of mental illness were put down to possession by a demon, but today we would probably describe the unfortunate man as suffering from some kind of psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.

The man rants at Jesus, ‘Let us alone! 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’. One thing that strikes me about the story is that in his madness the man recognises Jesus for who he is, ‘the Holy One of God’.

And that gets me thinking about how like this mad man we all are. Each one of us is created in God’s image as a soul with a conscience, a conscience by which we know right from wrong, truth from lies, beauty from ugliness. It is through conscience that God speaks to us, and we can hear Jesus’s voice through our conscience. We say we believe in ‘the Holy One of God’, but when we hear the gentle voice of Jesus calling to us, with the authority of God Almighty, all too often we ignore it. It may be in the little things of life, when we do what we know we shouldn’t, for our own selfish reasons. It may be in a great thing, when we are faced with a life-changing decision for good or ill, perhaps a costly decision to speak out for justice or to follow a vocation. We hear Jesus calling to us, but in our head a nagging demon drowns out his voice, shouting ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth’. And so we do the wrong thing, we take the wrong road, time and time again.

But as Luke tells us, Jesus has the authority and the power to rebuke the demon. Through prayer and reflection, the God-given voice of our conscience is strengthened, so that we can hear Jesus’s voice cast out the nagging demon, saying ‘Be silent, and come out!’. When the demon’s voice is drowned out, he can do no harm to us, and we can calmly and courageously choose to do the right thing, to take the right road.

We must pray, I think, for the voice of conscience to be stronger than our desires and our fears. And we should pray too for the courage to follow our conscience, whatever the cost might be, so that we may follow the path of salvation that Jesus shows us.

We pray in the words of Joan Chittister, an American Benedictine nun and passionate advocate for peace and human rights, for conscience and courage:

Loving God, lead us beyond ourselves to care and protect, to nourish and shape, to challenge and energize, both the life and the world you have given us.

God of light and God of darkness, God of conscience and God of courage, lead us through this time of spiritual confusion and public uncertainty.

Lead us beyond fear, apathy and defensiveness to new hope in you, and to hearts full of faith.

Give us the conscience it takes to comprehend what we’re facing, to see what we’re looking at, and to say what we see, so that others, hearing us, may also brave the pressure that comes with being out of public step.

Give us the courage we need to confront those things that compromise our consciences or threaten our integrity.

Give us, most of all, the courage to follow those before us who challenged wrong and changed it, whatever the cost to themselves.

We ask this for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

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