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Hannah was accused of making a drunken show of herself in the first reading for mass from the book of Samuel. She was in the temple praying her heart out and Eli accused her of being drunk on wine. She just had a broken heart and was pouring her troubles out to God, but Eli was watching her pray and took it the wrong way. Hannah was a holy woman and after she prayed to God, He blessed her with a son who would later serve Him.
Now, contrast Hannah who was unjustly accused, with the man who had an unclean spirit in the gospel today. It sounds like Jesus was in the middle of preaching in the synagogue, when the unclean spirit in the man revealed himself by shouting out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” The man may have for all appearances sake, seemed as normal as you and I, but a demon lay hidden inside of him.
If you speak with any official exorcist in the Catholic church, they will tell you that demons do not usually take possession of a person without their permission. Involuntary demonic possessions can occur, but a lot of the time a person has done something to encourage the evil spirits, even if it was unwittingly.
No one should ever play with Ouija board games, because this is a genuine way that demons are invited into our world. Ask an official exorcist about it. It isn’t just a game. Tarot cards, mediums, fortune tellers, voodoo, Wicca, witchcraft, the occult, or any other fascination with the spirit world can encourage and attract evil spirits. Even when these things are done out of fun, or even if it was many years ago, a demon can lie hidden inside a person, undetected for a long time. This is probably what happened with the man who had the unclean spirit in the synagogue, that Jesus cured in today’s gospel.
Demons can not stand the name of Jesus, let alone be in his presence. In fact, the name of Jesus is an effective way to cope with he presence of demons. But, the best way to cope with demonic attacks or harassment, is to grow in holiness yourself. Hannah didn’t appear to act holy from the outside looking in, but she was in fact a very holy person on the inside. The best defense against demons and evil spirits is to attend mass regularly, go to confession and have a regular, consistent prayer life. We receive grace from Jesus, through the sacraments and prayer and by genuinely living by God’s commandments.
It can happen though, that the more a person grows closer to Jesus, the more the demons or evil spirits will harass them. This is ordinarily in the form of temptations. The demons will size you up and look for your weakest area and then go for the juggler, so to speak. Bait, distraction and division are some of their main tactics to draw you away from the Lord. If you ever experience a genuine demonic attack, the best way to cope with it is to go to confession, attend some extra masses and spend time at adoration. Jesus is always stronger than the demons, or even Satan himself. Demons and evil spirits are real. The devil is also real and his best weapon is making people think he isn’t.
Many people believe that demonic influences are a form of mental illness. Sometimes a person does have a mental illness. Sometimes they are being genuinely harassed or possessed, by a demon. And, sometimes it’s both. It’s not an either or situation. Genuine demonic harassment can put so much stress on a person that they develop mental problems. Who wouldn’t have some emotional or mental issues if you genuinely encountered a demon?
If you, a family member or a friend ever experience a demonic attack that you can’t handle, don’t be shy about talking to the exorcist in your diocese. The priests who serve as exorcists can help in many ways and that is what they are there for. Actually, many protestants and non-believers contact Catholic exorcists too. Many people in our modern society quit believing the devil is real and therefore, not many members of the clergy have been trained to be exorcists, except in the Catholic church. The Catholic church has been actively increasing the number of trained exorcists, because Satan’s influence on our world has increased in recent decades.
We really shouldn’t be too concerned about the demons, they can’t do anything without Christ’s permission, which is very evident in today’s gospel.