It takes very little discernment to identify evil spirits in movies. Their facial features are scarred and there’s an unnatural quality about their skin. They hide in the shadows striking when the victim is most vulnerable with knives, claws and axes. Evil spirits have super human strength and super natural powers.
These images are forged into our minds. It makes it difficult to understand biblical stories about demon possession. We tend to think of some twisted figure ranting and raving and trying to physically attack Jesus. Or, the exact opposite, someone suffering from seizures that in the modern world could be managed with proper medical care.
C. S. Lewis, in his book, “The Screwtape Letters,” presented an image of how a person might be possessed by an evil spirit. This book became formative for me because his presentation reflected my own experience. According to C. S. Lewis, the person possessing an evil spirit does not avoid church, but attends on a regular basis. They celebrate the singing of hymns, but are quick to talk about the voice that should not be singing. The evil spirit rejoices over worship attendance, but talks about the person who probably shouldn’t be attending. They listen to the sermon, but lovingly point out to other members the abundance of errors in the pastor’s message and the weakness of the delivery style.
If some of these actions hit a little close to home for you, you’re not alone. I can see myself in them as well. This is the type of spirit that Jesus rebukes in the reading today. His rebuke is simple, “Be silent and come out of him.” Search your heart to see God working in all things. Look for ways to share and receive grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. When you find yourself drifting off into judgement, pray, “Be Silent!” These words can still silence an evil spirit. (Lk 4: 31-37)