5 July 2006: Wednesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 8, 28-34: The Demons in Our Lives
The ancient world believed in demons. It is said that they were descendants of the fallen angels in Genesis 6, 1-8 who seduced mortal women. The ancient world believed that the world was filled with demons that lived in unclean places such as tombs, deserts where their howling can be heard. These demons are dangerous to many especially those who are pregnant, to the newly-weds, to children and those who were out at night. To them, the ancient world ascribed all illnesses. The Jews believed that in the coming of the Messiah, these demons will be defeated. And to the demon-possessed, Jesus cured them by sending the demons into the herd of pigs and drowned them at sea.
Nevertheless, we talk about different kinds of evil spirits, different demons that control us like pride, jealousy, envy, and insecurity. John Milton (Al Pacino) in the film, The Devil’s Advocate (1997), says, “vanity is my favorite sin.” We can talk about external demons that destroy our health and our relationships like food, alcohol, drugs, wealth, and other people whom we are obsessed with. They control us and influence our decisions powerfully.
Furthermore, it can be our selfishness as seen in the last lines of the Gospel. When the caretakers of the herd of pigs ran to the town to tell the story, the townsfolk wanted Jesus to leave the town. They did not care about the two men who were cured of their illness. They cared for the herd of pigs that perish. They cared for their own concerns but did not care for others --- or even rejoiced with fortune of being ‘sane’ again.
Most of us live our lives focused on our immediate needs and our immediate problems. If we thing beyond these, it is usually in terms of our immediate relationships. Our lives are shaped by our past. Often, we carry that past with us, as if we were houses haunted by ghosts, spirits and demons that refuse to leave. These are the traumatic moments that have stunted our growth and made us closed, grumpy, cautious, insecure, and wounded. Unless we become aware of these traumas and we experience being transformed by love, these demons continue to pester us. And it may even kill us spirituality. Some have stopped praying or coming to mass because they do not believe in a God who loves them. Their experience of abandonment and loneliness and frustration made them believe that God has forsaken them --- or He does not exist altogether.
Today, we must ask the Lord to search our hearts for the demons that hide in it. We can sing with the Psalmist in Psalm 139, 1-3:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me,
You know when I sit and when I stand.
You discern my thoughts,
You search out my path
And are acquainted with all my ways.
And after that we ask God what St. Ignatius urges those who do the Spiritual Exercises: for an understanding of our demons that filled with horror of them, we may amend our lives and put it in order. (Spiritual Exercises #62)
*a view from Mirador, Baguio City where I had my retreat last May 2006, doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.