Exorcism and Christ’s Victory over the Devil

By Bishop Arthur Serratelli
For Catholic News Agency

On September 21, 2014, 1,600 people gathered outside Oklahoma’s Civic Center Music Hall to protest the satanic ritual of a Black Mass that the city officials had permitted.  Inside, forty-two people attended the blasphemy.  A few months before, a similar event was cancelled at Harvard University in response to the great outcry from believers.  Recent times have witnessed an increased fascination with the devil.

Throughout the world, the decline in faith and the rise of interest in the occult have fomented a climate that favors the phenomenon of demonic possession.  As more and more people abandon the practice of the faith, they satisfy their innate desire for the other-worldly with alternate forms of spirituality that open them to the influence of the evil spirits.

As a result, requests for exorcisms have dramatically risen within the last decade.  In May of this year, 200 delegates from around the world took part in the ninth annual conference on exorcism in Rome.  Psychiatrists, priests, sociologists, religious and doctors approached the reality of evil from their own area of expertise.

The reality of the devil belongs to the bedrock of Christian tradition.  Even a casual reading of the New Testament brings the reader face to face with the devil.  Within the gospel tradition, casting out the devil (exorcism) stands out as one of the miracles Jesus most frequently performed.  In fact, in the Gospel of Mark, exorcisms are the largest number of healings Jesus worked (cf. Mk 1:21-8; 5:1-20; 7:24-30; and 9:14-29).

So integral to the ministry of Jesus were his exorcisms that, when the gospel writers wish simply to summarize his ministry, they include his exorcisms (cf. Mk 1:32-4, 39, 3:11; Lk 7:21 and 13:32).  Even non-Christian exorcists found Jesus’ name effective to cast out the devil (cf. Mk 9:38-41; Acts 19:13-20).  And, Jesus’ opponents, recognizing the fact of his exorcisms, tried to disparage him by saying that he was in league with Satan himself (cf. Mk 3:21).  So grounded in history was the memory of Jesus’ casting out the devil that even the rabbis remembered it (cf. Sanhedrin, 43a ).

Jesus shared his work with his disciples.  “He summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (Mt 10:1; cf. Mk 3:15).  And they did.  They went about “casting out many demons and … anointing with oil many sick people and healing them” (Mk 6:13).  At Philippi, Paul himself cast out a demon from a slave girl (cf. Acts 16:16-18).

Thus, from her very beginning, the Church continued Jesus’ mission of casting out the devil, of rescuing the world from the powers of darkness and ushering in the kingdom of God.  And the Church continues this work in our day.  Through the preaching of the Word, through the celebration of the sacraments and, on occasion, through the rite of exorcism, the Church makes real in our day the victory of Christ over the devil. Read the rest of this article at Catholic News Agency

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