How People Get Possessed by the Devil
by Father Brian J. Soliven on Sunday January 28, 2024
There is no ignoring Jesus. Wherever he goes, he compels a reaction. In the Gospel passage from this Sunday’s reading, we see Jesus enter the synagogue in Capernaum. This city along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, is the scene of some of Jesus' most powerful encounters: He heals the mother-in-law of St. Peter, chooses the first men who will become the Twelve Apostles, and most strikingly, it’s in Capernaum that Jesus teaches his most controversial doctrine – the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Notice what immediately happens when Jesus walks through the doors of that packed synagogue. As soon as begins to teach, “a man with an unclean spirit”, cries out, “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!” (Cf. Mark 1: 21-24). He recognizes precisely the divinity of Jesus Christ. He is not simply a wise teacher or someone who said nice, interesting things. No. Rather, this man sees God in the flesh. He is in the mighty presence of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
Jesus, seeing the man, Our Lord commands the evil spirit to “come out of him!” (Cf. Mark 1: 25). This dramatic scene shocked the entire crowd. But we must ask ourselves, how did this man get an evil spirit within him in the first place? Here, Jesus touches upon an important subject in the spiritual life, namely, demonic possession. How does a person get possessed? Does it happen randomly? Is it contagious like the flu? Can I catch it in church if I am sitting next to someone with a demon in the pew next to me? The answer is no. Full blown, demonic possession is actually quite rare. It’s a decision we make when we open ourselves to the occult. For example, common dark practices such as consulting with so-called psychics, tarot cards readings, crystals and the ouija board are popular ways people get entangled with the demonic world. This is a direct violation of the First Commandment, to have no other gods besides the True God. Oftentimes, these psychics will use Catholic imagery of Our Blessed Mother and saints in their shops, in order to mislead Catholics.
If you have ever participated in these practices, you have opened a window, like this man did in the Gospel reading. To shut it closed, go to confession immediately.