But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul.
Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
For a long time, I had a hard time reading this Gospel without picturing small cartoonish red demons chasing people around with pitchforks. Surely this wasn’t what Jesus was warning us about! But while I am happy to let go of this childish image, I recognize that I shouldn’t so quickly dismiss the idea of evil spirits among us. While recovering from a battle injury, St. Ignatius of Loyola began to recognize what he would later refer to as the movement of spirits. He acknowledged that there are both good and evil spirits acting in our lives. The evil spirits may manifest as those things that make us afraid, doubtful, proud, or jealous. They lead us away from the path that Jesus invites us to follow.
The Examen prayer tool offers us a way to help identify these evil spirits in our lives. As we reflect back on the day, we look for those times when we felt distant from God, or perceived a decrease in faith, hope, and love. Noticing these patterns can make it easier to discern where the Holy Spirit is inviting us.
How can you take note of the movement of the spirits in your life today? What is the good spirit leading you to do?
Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes, to discern and test the spirits that help me read the signs of the times, to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others. Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.
—Pedro Arrupe, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!