The Man With the Unclean Spirit
Talk of demons, devils and unclean spirits is not so common today as it once was. We have rationalized away the spiritual realm and when we read of Jesus’ encounters with the demonic it is common procedure to turn to the modern language of psychology. In today’s Gospel we might be more comfortable saying Jesus healed a man with psychological problems then saying he helped a man possessed by an unclean spirit.
It is true that the science of psychology has come a long way in the past century. Many mysterious ailments of the human mind are now better understood. Treatment with therapies, both cognitive and pharmacological, have vastly improved the quality of life for many people. But there is still a depth of understanding that is lacking. We might be beginning to understand how the human brain works at a superficial level but has anyone tapped into the human spirit?
Does anyone really know what makes human beings tick? There is so much going on in our hearts and minds that we do not really have a grasp of and this is the area of understanding in which Jesus excelled. While others saw symptoms Jesus exposed the root of anxiety. Once exposed to the light of day it could not survive and people were “cured” of their ailments. Demons, Devils, neuroses, phobias… all these are but words that describe what we cannot fully understand. These are the unknown specters that keep us from living to our full human potential. Jesus breaks through these barriers and calls us to fullness of life, sometimes even beyond what we can imagine for ourselves.
On the television series “Hoarders” we are introduced to people who cannot throw anything away. Living up to their necks in piles of rubbish and filth these people are possessed, in biblical terms, by an unclean spirit. Usually the source of their compulsion to hoard can be traced to a trauma which they have suffered and the cure is always the same. It takes time and people who are willing to journey with the person as they share their story and come to terms with the hurt they have suffered that is now manifesting itself in their symptoms. Perhaps this is not the quick cure that is described in the Gospel but it is a work of Christ to walk and talk with those who are suffering. Perhaps we will not come to understand their plight in a conscious way but the healing power of companionship and compassion transcends human understanding and connects at the level of the human spirit.
This is the level at which God knows us, right to the depth of our human spirit. It cannot be seen, it cannot be measured and yet it is at this depth that we are forgiven and redeemed by Christ and it is from this depth that all healing begins to take root and spread through our life. Science cannot reveal this to us, only God can and it is from the depths of our Spirit that we come to know God.