Scripture: Lectionary 384: Hosea 8:4-7.11-13. Psalm 115:3-4,5-6,7-8.9-10 Matthew 9:32-38:
We often hear of the “demons” within people, especially those who are addicted. In our culture this is probably the best analogy with the exorcisms that Jesus does, but from the perspective of New Testament social and religious behavior. Today a mute is said to be cured by Jesus by his casting out the demon of his not being able to speak.
Then there is retaliation from the religious minded who tell Jesus he does this by the power of the Prince of Demons (the devil or in their dialect Beelzebul). We know Jesus is able to withstand their accusation and judgment by using the reasonable response that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. It would be stupid of Beelzebul to allow someone to have power to cast out demons. Jesus thus quells another controversy and moves on to heal the sick and to exorcise other demons. The most spectacular example of this is seen in Mark who describes a wild man possessed by demons who roams the hills, howls, and breaks his chains. No one could subdue him. (Mark 5:1-20). This extraordinary strength is seen in some of the exorcisms performed in our time whether they are really demonic expulsions or just the sheer power of the one who is driven by a “demon” or an energy produced by their psychological condition.
People who are possessed and controlled by their need for drugs, alcohol or sexual activities are often possessed by what are called their “demons.” There is within the culture of rabbinic thought the idea of an inner drive that is called Yetser ha-ra (the evil impulse in us) and Yetser ha-tov (the good inclinations within our hearts).
Rabbi Assi said, “In the beginning the yester ha-ra is like a spider’s thread, but end the end—like wagon ropes.” By our own faith and trust in God and our belief in Jesus working within our hearts, we, too can cast out such demons and carry on the mission of God as Jesus did. Maybe not through miracles, but through the efforts we make at helping people get out of some harmful addictions. We may be able to intervene and offer them the idea of getting some professional counseling. This is no easy task, but it does help us to be concerned about our human family and its members. Amen.