21. Jan, 2018

Exposing the devil: A reflection on Mark 1:21-28

I know who you are: The Holy One of God


A central teaching in the Gospel of Mark is the separate and opposed reality of good and evil. In this world, the locus of manifest good or manifest evil, is the human spirit. In our lives good/evil exists insofar as we allow good or demonic forces to influence us. The good news is that Jesus has authority over unclean spirits and their defeat is integral to God’s reign. So, we hear in Mark that Jesus’ 1st miracle is to cast out this evil as God is calling us to holiness in body and spirit (1 Cor 7:34).

Whether we like it or not, we are caught up in the battle. According to Pope Benedict (emeritus) one real danger is that “disbelief in the devil opens the door to ‘dark powers.’ He teaches that “the devil is not only real but something that we ignore at our own peril,” warning that ‘dark forces’ are at work –which aim to disintegrate the relationships among human beings– and in these situations our task as disciples is to respond courageously with faith. Did you know that we share in Jesus’ authority over unclean spirits? Benedict refers to our power of exorcism, (not understood in its technical sense) as our attitude of faith. United with Jesus through faith we 'cast out' the prince of this world.

Benedict goes on to describes the prince of our world’s darkness –the devil, as a puzzling but real, personal and not merely symbolical presence. He is a powerful reality, a baneful superhuman freedom directed against God's freedom. This is evident if we look realistically at history, with its abyss of ever new atrocities which cannot be explained by reference to man alone. And although we do not have the power to oppose Satan ourselves, united with Jesus, we can be certain of vanquishing him.

The Holy Father (emeritus) equated belief in the devil with spiritual maturity. The more one understands the holiness of God, the more one understands the opposite of what is holy, namely, the deceptive masks of the devil. Jesus Himself is the greatest example of this: before Him, the Holy One, Satan could not keep hidden and was constantly compelled to show himself. So, one might say that the disappearance of the awareness of the demonic indicates a related decline in holiness. The devil can take refuge in his favourite element, anonymity, if he is not exposed by the radiance of the person united to Christ. 

On this last point it is clear what are mission is: to expose the devil through our union with Christ.

To conclude. Our faith unites us to Jesus. Jesus has authority over unclean spirits and the defeat of this evil is integral to God’s reign. Therefore, you and I are entrusted the task to live holy lives, to overcome the world, and to cast out the prince of this world.