Thursday, May 23, 2013

Exorcism

dark clouds encircle the wilderness in front of my retreat house

There was a bit of a buzz recently as to whether or not Pope Francis performed an exorcism on a man in Saint Peter's Square a few days ago. Some say the pope was casting out the devil in the man, others say Francs was just saying a prayer for healing. 

For me, it doesn't really matter whether or not the pope was performing an exorcism,  because I think exorcism has little to do with a priest or a pope reading ritualized prayers or sprinkling holy water on  someone supposedly possessed by an evil spirit. I think exorcism is the daily struggle against evil which involves all of us.

Jesus was an exorcist. He lived his life standing against the powers of empire and temple which would tear people apart rather than bring them together. Those who were sick and suffering, those who were marginalized and outcast by society found a ready place of welcome in the arms of Jesus.

Yes, Jesus fought a constant battle against the evil powers of oppression, violence and human degradation. He was an exorcist. And since I am a follower of Jesus, I also believe I am called to be an exorcist in my own place and my own time.

The world today is enshrouded in thick clouds of darkness - economic injustice, sexual exploitation,  widespread prejudice. Sometimes the evil surrounding us is blatant - sometimes subtle. But anyone who walks a life-path of compassion (Christian or not) is called to stand against the darkness. 

Martin Luther King Jr. (also a powerful exorcist) once said:

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it
as he who helps to perpetrate it.
He who accepts evil without protesting against it
is really cooperating with it.

I recently came across a story about a Catholic High School teacher who was fired from her job. 

For 19 years Carla Hale taught at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus Ohio. A few months ago Ms.Hales's 80 year old mother died and Carla wrote an obituary for her. In the obituary there was a one line reference to Carla's female life-partner. A parent noticed the reference and called the Bishop. Ms. Hale was subsequently fired because her lifestyle was inconsistent with the teaching of the church. 

Ms.Hale had been a teacher all her life. She loved what she did and was beloved by her students. She is devastated and she has no recourse to protest her firing. 

It seems to me that if the pope wants to perform an exorcism, he should make a call to Columbus Ohio and have Carla re-instated.




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