Jesus has been starting his public life. As often in this space, our reflections have been on opening our hearts to Jesus and following him. What to make of this gospel? Jesus amazes the small town crowd with his wisdom. They are confused by the brilliance coming from this carpenter. But the evil spirit dwelling among them is not confused. It recognizes Jesus immediately. In terror it proclaims Jesus: the Holy One of God. How ironic that of all the people listening, it was the unclean spirit who saw Jesus for what he was. Jesus responds by driving the evil spirit out of the man. And the crowd is stunned. Who is this guy? He can literally scare the devil out of people. Christ’s public life is off to a fast start…with many miracles to follow.
The concept of demonic possession and exorcism has always been difficult for me to relate to. The struggle with garden-variety inner demons is very much closer to home. Start with the demon of addiction – the one we invite in to ease the pain, to pass the time, to fill a void. It comes in every form from prescription drugs to single malt Scotch, from pornography to jelly donuts and ice cream! But whatever the form, we can become slaves to these demons, whether as a genteel, high-functioning addict or a derelict junkie and everything in between. As virulent as they are, addictions are not the most difficult demons to confront. They are so debilitating they make themselves obvious. They invite intervention.
Demon pride is much more insidious, pervasive and tenacious. And we’ve all got a potentially deadly dose. It comes in a multitude of strains. There’s the “smartest guy in the room”, AKA “the know it all.” There’s the “resumé mouth” demon compelled to impress. There’s the “inventory-eyed snob” and it’s evil twin “envy”, both constantly counting and comparing. The demons are legion. But the underlying pathology is always the same: Pride is the soil that nurtures all other sin. It is Lucifer’s specialty. St. Vincent said: “Humility is nothing but truth, pride is nothing but lying.” A humble life is a happy life. A proud life is a tortured life. Pride and grace cannot occupy the same space. One or the other has got to go.
Humility is not an end in itself. It is a manifestation of a soul at peace, filled with the love of Christ. Let’s ask Jesus to purge our demons: Fill us with your love, Lord. Fill us to overflowing. Leave no room for demons. Only you Lord. Only you.
The Reverend David Sellery, Author, Resource Creator and Retreat Leader. Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, I serve as an Episcopal priest who seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, congregational development and community outreach, while continually engaging our wider culture with dynamism and hope.