Demons sound completely foreign to us in this day and age, but in the time of Jesus, there was a belief in a whole structure of systems both in Judaism and the Greek world that impacted humans and human consciousness.
I began looking into this in 2009 when I wrote my thesis on Mary Magdalene (who was healed of seven demons by Jesus). The Roman Greco world believed that we had eight parts that made up our Souls. We had a commander, and then seven senses that could be dominated by demons. The goal in life was to have these parts unified and freed of the demons that would prey on our senses.
The casting out of demons was a way to liberate us, to heal those parts of us that were not in harmony. A particular illness perhaps not identified yet through early medicine but was very much preying on someone’s health was demonic. It sounds a bit more like medicine rather than myth when we can think of it this way.
Now Mark puts us on a fast track. Mark is our first Gospel written about 70 years after Jesus’ death. It is within the very first chapter of Mark that we hear Jesus came to heal the people and cast out demons.
The other Gospels take us through incredible stories of healing journeys - and in Mark it is one healing after another. There is no birth narrative, but the immediate recognition by John the Baptist that Jesus is the one sent by God - and Jesus’ mark (literally) is healing.
How has the message of Jesus Christ been so convoluted through the years… that people do not know this!
Power and corruption - and the use of bad theology to guilt people into submission has marked our Christianity.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians may sound obscure taken out of context - but he is in fact emphasizing that spreading the Gospel should be done “not for building up the self” - not for control…but for the truth of the Word itself.
Jesus the Word came to heal, show inclusiveness and forgiveness. He was the literal manifestation of Love. Our outline of faith (the catechism) states that Jesus came to show us that the nature of God is Love.
The demons that see Jesus and want to name him… are a threat to Jesus so early in his ministry. They are a threat because they represent the temptation of Power and Corruption that Jesus wishes to avoid in his ministry (for himself and others). He wants others to see this is his ministry and not as his power.
How he deals with this tremendous challenge - is to pray.
The disciples go looking for him. “Everyone is searching for you.” The people are searching. They want to “see.”
We are not so very different from them. We also want to “see.” We want to know this healing energy up close - and working in our lives. Why are we separated from God - and how do we find our way back?
Now our collect says….
“Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in Jesus…”
“Sin” is also a term like “demon” that we struggle with today.
Theologically “Sin” means separation from God. The idea of “original sin” is marked in many of our heads - and makes us scared and angry…often because the term was abused by the corruption and power of spiritual leaders…
Last week Fr. Mac spoke a bit about sin and Adam of the Garden - and about Jesus being the “second” Adam. Adam of the Garden is our mythology that explores why we are here on Earth and feel so separated from union with God. (Otherwise termed original sin)…It is our way of making meaning for why we became separation from God; “subject to sin and death.”
Jesus the Second Adam is the way into reunion with God through Love.
The aspects of Jesus’ healing ministry available to us are love and forgiveness. While we may not be able to heal others or ourselves of disease, we can heal “dis -ease” by opening to others.
When we find it in our hearts to open to others - we heal.
There is an immediate sense of resistance when we are irritated or hurt by another.
But if we can find it in ourselves to remain open and take a moment to breathe - say one line from a prayer you love, one word - to pray as Jesus does - into this tension, into this resistance… we will find that the temptation to exert our own control and power over the circumstances lessens.
When we do this, we open up to help others be “seen.” We then can also see more clearly. Perhaps not immediately, but the pause gives us reflection… and that reflective time will continue to open us to the porousness of the Spirit.
We do not need to be in control of every circumstance. The Spirit of Love and understanding grows in these moments…
That is a big task for many of us because we are faced with big challenges. But on the other hand, what more is there to do in a life, but to keep moving forward through a love that transcends us.
This is the “saving" that Paul speaks of. He has “become "all things to all people, that he might by all means save some.”
We all need to be saved by the reminder that the Gospel - is about healing. Many of our friends have been hurt by the power of the church and the corruption of the message.
Let’s try through our actions, one breath, one prayer at a time to spread the True word.. The Good News of Love to others!