Jeremiah 7:23–28; Psalm 95:1–2, 6–7, 8–9; Luke 11:14–23
The popular book The Rite, which was later made into a movie, tells the story of a young priest who learns how to fight again the very real manifestation of the devil’s power. Through prayer and the power of God mediated through the church’s ritual of exorcism, people throughout the centuries have been delivered from the grip of evil.
Today’s Gospel, from Luke, gives one of many episodes in the story of Jesus where he drives out a devil and brings relief to a person who has been possessed. In the process, Jesus describes the intensity of the struggle against evil. It was a struggle St. Patrick knew well. As the “apostle to Ireland” in the fifth century, he had to fight against the pagan religion that was entrenched there. His powerful preaching and energetic building of the church throughout the land helped to root Christianity in Ireland.
Exorcism is still needed today. The real cases described in The Rite are rare occurrences, but exorcism of a less dramatic nature occurs on the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent. In the initiation ritual of the scrutinies, pastors pray a prayer of exorcism, which is meant to strengthen the candidates for baptism, living in a world where the power of evil is real. We are confident as we pray these prayers that the power of Jesus is with each of us in our struggle to be faithful.
Today’s Action Try to attend a Sunday Mass in your parish where the scrutinies are taking place as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Consider some of the instances where you have encountered evil in your own life.
May we hear your voice clearly today, O God. Melt our stubborn hearts, and free us from the grip of evil. Amen.