While people of Western cultures tend not to think of evil or dark or unclean spirits, they did figure prominently in the culture of the Middle East. These people believed that their world was inhabited by both benevolent and evil spirits.
At the same time, people of the Western culture tend to put faith in the science of psychology. These scientists and doctors try to help people overcome a variety of what we refer to as mental illness or mental disability. Perhaps each of us has at some time or another encountered a “dark” spirit which tries to convince us that we are not good enough, that we are not lovable, or that nothing I do really matters. When we are overcome by such thoughts, we can be driven to desperate acts, even to harming ourselves.
St. Mark’s Gospel presents us with a man who is possessed by an unclean spirit. Notice that St. Mark does not tell us how the spirit manifests itself in the man. Curiously, while the assembly in the synagogue is still trying to determine who Jesus is, the unclean spirit is very aware of who and what Jesus is. When we remember that the Gospel of St. John told us that his own people did not know him, this detail becomes even more curious. The unclean spirit knows what the people fail to understand.
Jesus does not brook any of the defiance with which the unclean spirit confronts him. He commands the spirit to leave, and it is forced to do so. The people are amazed, but sadly are still not able to accept who Jesus is.
Whether we are filled with doubts about ourselves or about God, these spirits can be dispelled if we place our trust in Jesus. While Jesus will have nothing to do with the evil spirits, we know that he will care for us if we but turn and accept him with open hearts. Beth Samson of Creighton University put it this way: “As we stand in the holy places of our lives, may we be ever more attuned to the voice of Love and Truth as we rebuke the lies of the Dark Spirit with the strength and courage given to us through grace.”
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator