We Are Not Powerless

by Fr. Denis Lemieux

Jesus called the twelve, and sent them out two by two, and gave them authority over unclean spirits … So they went out … [and] cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them (Mark 6: 7, 12-13, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time).

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Do you believe you have authority over unclean spirits and to cure the sick? Because you do. Maybe you really don’t know that. Maybe you think only “special” people with particular spiritual gifts or endowed with clerical office have those powers. Maybe you are wondering if Fr. Lemieux has gone a bit loopy this month. COVID fatigue claims another victim!

No, I’m not loopy (well, perhaps I am a bit, but not about this). We are all of us baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart (cf 1 Peter 2:9).

Each of us carries within him or her self, an earthen vessel, the very life of God, the Holy Spirit (cf 2 Cor 4:7). Each of us stands before Jesus, in our baptismal integrity, entrusted by him with a mission, a task, and the spiritual authority and power to achieve that mission, fulfill that unique role each of us has in the proclamation of the kingdom.

And all of that comes down, one way or another, to casting out evil spirits and healing the sick. This may be a literal reality in our lived experience. Many are the Christians over the past 2000 years who have effectively engaged in simple deliverance prayers against the demons and have laid hands on the sick and made them well.

But whether or not we have seen or experienced this, let’s be clear about it: all Christian mission, all Christian love, all the wide manner of ways Christians proclaim the Gospel and pour their lives out in humble service and love, in suffering patiently borne, and in words of grace that instruct, admonish, and console—all of this is the great grand ongoing exorcism of evil in our world.

All of this is the healing of the nations and of human hearts, minds, and bodies.

One of the greatest strategies the Evil One has in this world is to convince us that we are powerless in the face of evil.

If we who are Christians, we who are baptized, consistently used even a small portion of the spiritual power and authority granted us by Christ, the transforming power of love that would be unleashed in this world would make a nuclear bomb look like a firecracker.

This is so important always, but never more so than in the year 2021, when all of us look out at a landscape of considerable wreckage and ruin—the effects of a global pandemic that has cut a swath of destruction far beyond the actual death toll, immeasurable in terms of the human suffering of all forms that has occurred in the past 18 months and their as yet to be seen long term effects.

We may feel quite helpless in the wake of all this. We may feel hemmed in, locked down not only in our physical lives (hard enough) but in our interior lives and essential human freedom of action and being.

But this is not true. We are not powerless in the face of all that suffering and evil. We have the power of prayer, and we have the power of love. The power of prayer and love is the very power of Jesus Christ, and that is the full power and might of God Almighty in this world.

It is so vital that we who have faith take hold of the real spiritual authority and power given us.

It is not a power to agitate, to politic, to storm the barricades or march in the streets with signs—not unless love and prayer bid us to actually do these things.

It is the power to cast out evil and heal the sick, though. Let’s take the Gospel very, very literally on this point. It was not just 2000 years ago and to a band of twelve men that the Lord gave this power.

Everything we read in the Gospels is a word of God about the Church now, about you and me now, about how Jesus is in relationship to us now—and this Gospel of Mark 6:7-13 is about the real power Jesus really gives to the real you and me, now.

It requires ingenuity, creativity, and considerable courage to see our way forward here. And of course, lots and lots of prayer.

How are we to reach out to this one paralyzed by fear and anxiety, or that one lost in crippling social isolation and loneliness? That elderly person cut off from family and friends, that teenager drifting in a sea of virtual disconnection?

That angry embittered relative lost in our hyper-polarized political culture, that neighbor facing real poverty in the wake of economic disaster?

There is much evil; there is much suffering; and there is us—you, me, and the whole community of the faithful, carrying in our bodies the life and death of Jesus Christ, carrying in our person the Person of the Holy Spirit. We are not powerless in the face of all this.

We have to go out, even if the logistics of that going out may be a bit dicey yet. To be a Christian is to be sent—that is the very meaning of the word “apostle,”—and we are all apostles of Christ, lay or cleric. This is the very meaning of our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

I realize I may be writing with a directness and forcefulness that is somewhat different than my usual tone. That’s because it’s important—vitally, terribly important in the year 2021—that we claim and reclaim our spiritual mission, and the authority and power given us by Christ to fulfill that mission.

So I repeat, do you believe you have authority over unclean spirits and to cure the sick? Because you do, you know. You really, really do.