I have a friend who was abducted in her teenage years. She was getting ready to drive to work and, as she was driving, she realized that her tires were flat on her car. Somebody pulled up next to her and said, “Can I give you a ride to work?” She said, “no.” She said she could walk to work as it was only a few blocks away. He said, “You never know at this time of day if it’s safe for you to walk.” She got into his car. He was not a friend. He was somebody who had been stalking her. He abducted her. He took her away and did some horrible things with her. She was scared for her life.
As she was sitting there in the passenger side of the car, she remembers this feeling of calm come over her. The Holy Spirit just came over her. She was given the sense of “be at peace.” She felt as if she should not act afraid or upset because he may take her life. From that moment, she allowed the Holy Spirit to guide her. There was one point where she had a chance to escape. She was thinking, if I run he’s probably going to kill me and, if I stay, he’s probably going to kill me. She didn’t know what to do. She asked God for guidance. At that moment, someone walked out of the back of the building. When she saw this man walk out of the back of the building, she knew that he would be a person of safety so she ran to him. She was able to escape. She realized later that it was that guy who had slashed her tires so that she would be vulnerable.
When I hear stories like that from people, that’s where I see true evil. I see Satan as being a real force in this world. The reality is we are all faced with Satan, and we’re faced with his trickery. We’re faced with Satan trying to lure us into his car. Satan does the same thing. He slashes our tires. He manipulates our lives. He does things to upset us and invites us to get into the car with him. I think it’s so important for all of us to know the reality of him on the prowl trying to get to us, trying to sabotage us, and ultimately, trying to get us to take a ride with him. Once we do that, he’s able to capture us and to hold us. We are given wonderful power by Christ to overcome Satan when these temptations, trickeries, and invitations happen.
The catechism gives the answers. It says, “Since Baptism signifies liberation and sin from the instigation of the devil, one or more exorcisms are pronounced over the candidate.” Do you know that you’ve all been exorcised since you’ve been baptized? In the Rite of Baptism, there’s a prayer of exorcism. I’m going to read that to you so you realize what has been already prayed for you. You have been protected from Satan.
The priest or deacon prays over the child or the adult depending on when you are baptized. “Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness and to bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child. Set him free from original sin. Make him a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him.”
The second prayer that’s used is, “Almighty God, you send your only son to rescue man from the slavery of sin and to give us freedom of your only sons and daughters. We pray for this child, who will have to face the world and its temptations and fight the devil in his cunning. Your son died and rose again to save us. By his victory over sin and death, cleanse this child from the state of original sin, strengthen the child with the grace of Christ and watch over the child at every step in life’s journey.” Then, “we ask this, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Those are powerful prayers that have been prayed over each and every one of you when you were baptized, and each and every one of your children when they were baptized.
We hear in the gospel today about this early act of Jesus. He’s beginning to work his miracles. One of the first miracles he works is an exorcism when he exorcises Satan. He’s teaching on the Sabbath, and when he’s teaching with authority, there was a man with an unclean spirit. He cries out, “What are you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Notice the fear of being destroyed. The fear of Jesus coming and the fear of Jesus destroying. I think some of us, because of original sin, have that fear of letting Jesus into our heart. If we let him into our heart, he’s going to take something away from us or he’s going destroy us. That is such a lie. When we let Jesus into our heart, he doesn’t destroy us. He heals us. He renews us. He helps us live a life of abundance and of joy. He gives us all of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. He does the opposite of destruction. He builds us up.
Then Jesus does something powerful. He rebukes him, and he says this phrase, “Quiet! Come out of him.” Isn’t that interesting that Jesus would exorcise by saying “quiet”? “And then the unclean spirit convulsed and with a loud cry came out of him.” We hear and see here that during moments of exorcism, of Jesus commanding Satan to leave us, there is going to be convulsing and difficulty, but we will not be harmed. He’s not going to hurt us in the process.
So what are we to make of this reality – of sin in the world, of the devil in the world, of his temptation, of his allurement, of his oppression and possession? First of all, we need to realize that we are claimed by Christ. In Baptism, we are protected from the enemy.
My spiritual director is an exorcist in Scranton, PA. He says, before he does any exorcism, the person has to be medically checked out to make sure he’s of sound mind, and it’s not just a medical issue. The first thing that he insists they do is go to confession. The primary form of exorcism for him is to have them go to confession because to be exorcised is to turn away from Satan and return to the gospel. All exorcisms involve conversion. It’s good for you to know that there are minor exorcisms and there are major exorcisms. The major exorcisms are kind of what you see in the movies. That’s where a trained exorcist appointed by the bishop would exorcise somebody, but there are also minor exorcisms. A priest can pray minor exorcisms over people. There are also some minor exorcisms where the baptized can pray with each other. I think it’s important for us to know that we, in our baptism, you in your baptism, me in my priesthood, have been given the power over Satan. You have the power by virtue of your baptism to cast out Satan.
The third thing is that we have sacramentals in the church that are very helpful in terms of keeping Satan out. One is holy water. If you have holy water in your homes, bless your children. You bless anything that you need to with holy water. Holy salt is often sprinkled into the holy water as well. Know and memorize the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel. It’s so important that you know the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel because he casts Satan into hell whenever you pray that.
Finally, Paul came. When Paul was preaching and exorcising himself, he always commanded, in the name of Jesus Christ, that Satan come out. There’s so much power in the name of Jesus. If you are ever faced with temptation, if you’re ever faced with the enemy doing something in your life or in your family’s life, always say, “In the name of Jesus, come out of him.” Always in the name of Jesus. There’s so much power in his name. There is complete power in his name. Just by saying “in the name of Jesus,” Satan will be completely checked and cast out.
The final thing I want to reflect on is his saying, “Quiet! Come out of him.” I think to say “quiet” is a very interesting form of exorcism. I think it’s because we live in such a noisy world, and Satan hates silence. Why does he hate silence? Because when we are in silence, we encounter and hear the voice of God. Satan hates silence. He will use noise in any way that he can in our lives. He will try to fill up every moment of our days with noise, with music, with distractions, or with TV on in the background. That’s why we hear in the reading of St. Paul, “I wish you to be free from anxieties.” I wish you to be free from this constant noise, so you can experience the peace of God.
Cardinal Sarah wrote a beautiful book, and it’s called The Power of Silence. The subtitle is Against the Dictatorship of Noise. He says noise is a dictator. It’s ruling our lives. The power of silence can overcome that. I just want to read you a couple quotes. He said, “The combat of evil plays out over time, and it’s important to persevere and not to lose hope.” So, when we’re tempted, when we feel the enemy, we are not to lose hope. But he says, “God is fashioning hearts, and evil never has the last word. In the darkest nights, God works in silence.” If you’re tempted by the enemy, spend some time in silence. If you’re tempted by the enemy, come here for Eucharist adoration. Spend some time in silence before the Lord. He will flee immediately when you come before the Blessed Sacrament. He says, “The devil invites mankind to rebellion and disorder, and with the litany of subterfuges he sows discord and incites us to pour out hatred on each other.” He calls them “the old scratch.” He always makes a noise and a lot of racket so as to prevent us from resting in God. The devil will not be able to reach us in the stronghold of silence.” Spend time in silence. Foster silence in your home. Foster silence in your workplace. Spend some time in silence because the devil hates it. That’s where we encounter God.
Remember your Baptism. Remember the gifts you have been given in Baptism, which lead to the protection you have from the enemy. Remember that you have been given, by the power of your Baptism in union with Christ, the power to cast out Satan. Remember to pray the St. Michael prayer. Remember to go to confession if you need to. Remember that ultimately we can always call out, “In the name of Jesus, I command you Satan to be gone.” Memorize that. Say it. “In the name of Jesus, I command you Satan to be gone.” When he is gone, we will experience the profound peace that comes to us in silence. Don’t let him abduct you. Next time he slashes your tires or does something to trip you up, know that you can instantly and immediately turn to Christ, and he will save you.