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Speaking to the Soul: Damage Control

Speaking to the Soul: Damage Control

Week of Proper 20, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)

Esther 8:1-8,15-17

Acts 19:21-41

Luke 4:31-37

Not all demons are alike. In today’s gospel, Jesus orders a “spirit of an unclean demon” to be silent. Then, Jesus expels the demon from a man in the synagogue. According to the passage, the demon throws the man on the ground and then comes out of him, “without having done him any harm.”

I wonder about the harm that the demon didn’t manage to do. Are we to think that the demon simply didn’t do any long-term damage, so that the man got right back to his old self when the demon was gone? Or, are we to contrast this demon with others who do much worse to the bodies of their hosts? For example, Luke’s gospel also describes the many demons who drive a man to live naked among tombs (Lk 8:26-29), and a demon who slams a boy’s body to the ground in convulsions (Lk 9:42). As Mark’s gospel tells it, this demon also throws the boy into fire (Mk 9:22).

Today’s demoniac gets off relatively easy by comparison. His story reminds us of the great variety of forces that possess and oppress us. Some afflict us from childhood; others take hold as we mature. Some isolate us from our relationships, while others attack our flesh and bones but leave our relationships intact. And some do more damage than others.

But today’s gospel also suggests that some part of us, some aspect of our souls or bodies, may be beyond the control of our demons. Jesus sees that part of every human being that is not lost, that is unharmed, that still bears the divine image and that marks us as beloved. Jesus sees through our demons.

We may not all have the powers of an exorcist, but perhaps we can learn to separate demons from people. If we can do this, then the demons will be able to do people much less harm.

Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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