Mystical Word  |  Weekly Reflection
Mystical Word is a weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading by L.J. Milone, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

He exorcises our demons

Jesus saves us from the demon of addiction.

It is quite easy these days to feel overwhelmed by the amount of sheer evil and potential evil in society.  Will the war in the Middle East spill over into a larger, more disastrous war? Will countries of the world ever welcome and respect migrants? Will there ever be justice for the millions of imprisoned men of color? Will powerful men ever learn that a woman is not an object for their sexual consumption? What about Global Warming? Wil there be any relief for the poor? There are numerous forces in the world and inside our own souls that keep us trapped.  We are slaves to fear, to war, to the rampant injustices of those in power, and to the all-consuming idol of the economy.

The Gospel is clear: Jesus saves.  God saves us through Jesus from the various forces of evil rampant in our world.  Over the course of the next three Sundays, we will reflect on this essential nature of the mission of Jesus.  He saves us.  By the physical touch of Jesus, God heals our various ills.  Through Jesus, God saves us from the forces of evil existing in our own souls as well as in the culture at large.

One of these forces, hitting society at large in many homes across our globe, is the demon of addiction.  I say demon quite intentionally.  Today’s Gospel reading showcases Jesus’ power over the demonic.  One way to understand demons, without denying the reality of demons or fallen angels, is to understand them metaphorically as a description of addiction.  The addict is possessed by an insatiable need for a drug whether that be cocaine, alcohol, sex, or smaller things like maintaining a morning routine, always hosting family dinners, or caring about social status.  The addict suffers from distorted thinking, which manifests through denial, rationalizing, and projecting.  Unconscious urges control the addict.  Thus, demonic possession is an apt and accurate description of addiction.

Jesus exorcises the demon by saying, “Quiet! Come out of him!”  Silence is the balm for our demonically addicted souls.  This is not, however, the negative silence of a woman who feels constrained and bullied to not speak out against a sexual harasser or even a rapist.  This is not the silence to which church leaders capitulated in the face of the horror of child molestation by priests.  These are demonic silences.  Divine or interior silence is wholly different.  It is good, true, holy, and suffused with the presence of God.  The Trappist monk Thomas Keating writes, “Interior silence or ‘resting in God’ is beyond thinking, images, and emotions. This awareness tells you that the core of your being is eternal and indestructible and that you as a person are loved by God and share his divine life.”  There is the Gospel!  God loves us as we are and shares the divine life with us.  This sharing in the divine life doesn’t happen in some far-flung future or only in the celestial home waiting for us beyond death.  It’s available now!  We can plug into this life here and now.  One way is by being silent within.

This silence allows the Spirit to go to work on us from the inside.  Addiction is an inside problem, one that afflicts our souls, our personalities, our very bodies.  The healing of addiction necessitates a healing of our unconscious.  Through interior silence, God heals our unconscious selves.  We all have numerous things blocking the love of God, and most of these things are unconscious.  We are not aware of them and there may be little we can do to get rid of them.  Interior silence, practiced in a naked faith in God alone, means consenting to the Holy Spirit’s transformation of our interior life.  This transformation first means the Spirit has to throw out all the garbage covering up our inherent oneness with God.  Keating says that interior or contemplative silence, “is not to experience peace but to evacuate the unconscious obstacles to the permanent abiding state of union with God…the permanent and abiding awareness of God that comes through the mysterious restructuring of consciousness.”

We suffer from forces too powerful to control; our spirits cry out for liberation.  Like in the days of Exodus, God hears the cry of the poor and eagerly seeks to free us from all that binds us.  Our love is bound and chained because of unconscious obstacles.  In the Gospels, Jesus shows us that addiction, a demon hard to exorcise from our lives, comes out of us through a divine and interior silence.