Today’s Gospel (Matthew 15: 21-28) is so clear on Jesus’ power over demons. The mother of a girl possessed of demons appeals to Jesus to heal her. She approaches with utter confidence, even though she is not a Jew. Jesus first reminds her that he’s here to save “the lost sheep of Israel,” but her response enables a shift in Jesus: “but even the dogs eat the scraps from the table.” She likens her family to the dogs who live on the margins of the chosen family, the Israelites. Jesus heals her daughter within the hour.
What are the demons in our lives that need healing? I also have a daughter who needs healing; and, while I know Jesus holds her in his arms, the healing is less visible. I say less visible rather than not happening yet because I trust in Jesus, and I know that most healings take place beyond what we can see. I can’t know fully the work He is doing in her life. But I have to trust in that ongoing work.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains clearly the source of demons in the fallen angels who chose to follow Lucifer, the great rebeller against God. The fall of these angels created spiritual warfare. Yet, while this battle rages on, the Catechism clarifies the limits of Satan’s power:
The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.” (395)
The message here is clear: Satan has limited power, but his demons can cause serious injuries to people’s spiritual nature and physical health. This mystery is a part of the story of human history here on earth, one that requires our constant prayer vigilance.
In addition, the Fall of Adam and Eve led initially to our death; but, after Christ’s saving work, we still retain the tendency toward concupiscence. This is the tendency to favor lower order goods rather than higher order goods. The lower order goods are often the immediate satiation of our vices — indulging in anger, overeating, being wasteful, giving up. The higher order goods require self-control, sacrifice — keeping an eye toward heaven, obeying God’s commandments.
So we have this dual battle at all times: the battle within us caused by concupiscence and the spiritual battle that rages around us. We need faith like the woman who likened herself and her daughter to the dogs worthy of the scraps shared by the chosen. And we need to call on our guardian angels to fight the good fight and keep us from temptation and harm. Speak to the angels out loud, or even quietly, for angels cannot read our thoughts in the same way as God.
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits with care, ever this day (or night) be at our side to light to guard to rule to guide.
Also call on St. Michael the Archangel who leads the battle against the demons:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.