The Battle is Real (revised)

23rd Sunday After Pentecost

Ephesians 2:4-10

Luke 8:26-39

Sometimes, it seems our society is obsessed with demons and the demonic. Halloween has lost its original meaning of the Eve of All Saints; instead, kids - and adults - dress like witches or ghosts, even demons. Movies like Hellboy and Hocus Pocus are popular. The Rolling Stones sang a song titled Sympathy for the Devil. Even a movie like The Exorcist, which is based on a real case of demonic possession, is viewed as little more than an entertaining horror movie. We really have become desensitized to the spiritual side of evil.

But, my brothers and sisters, that evil is real. Sometimes, our Protestant brethren will approach people saying, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. Well, the flip side of that is the undeniable fact - Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life, and your soul if you let him.

In today’s gospel, we see a victim of just that hatred. The poor man was possessed of not one, but a whole legion of demons. He lived among the tombs, naked. And, the demons gave him such strength that he broke any bonds that his neighbors used to restrain him. He was undoubtedly miserable, tormented. And the demons who possessed him yelled at Jesus that He tormented THEM. What did Jesus do? He allowed the demons to go into a herd of pigs, pigs which subsequently drowned themselves.

So, how does this affect us? Yes, there are cases of possession today, cases requiring an exorcism. But that requires a priest, a priest appointed by his bishop. What can the rest of us do?

Satan’s war with God is partially directed at us. We read in the Book of Revelation, “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars . . . . And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. . . . Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus”. The dragon, that is, Satan, makes war on us. And that will continue until his final defeat.

In 1 Peter, we are told, “Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith”

There are, of course, many types of demonic influence around us. Not every case involves full-fledged possession, like in the movie The Exorcist. Temptation to sin is something we all face. Sometimes, there are physical manifestations - the proverbial “things that go bump in the night”. I once attended a family wedding at a New Age church. I was not the only of us who sensed an oppression there.

So, what can we do, short of calling an exorcist?

The first thing to remember is that we DO have authority over the demons. A few chapters after telling us of these events, Luke reports the following: “After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them,. . . . The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

This was before there were any bishops, priests, or deacons. These were laymen. As Fr. Amorth tells us, “Jesus first gave the power to cast out demons to his apostles; then he extended the power to the seventy-two disciples, and in the end he granted it to all those who would believe in him”.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication”.

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They have divine power to destroy demonic strongholds.

The late Chief exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, tells us, “In all cases when there is no possession, the usual means to obtain grace should be sufficient. These means are prayer; the sacraments; almsgiving; leading a Christian life; pardoning offenses; and soliciting the aid of our Lord, Mary, the saints, and the angels”. He counsels, in personal prayer, the frequent recitation of the litanies of the saints, choosing one’s own patron or those to whom one is particularly devoted. Their presence is also mediated through devotion and through the use of their relics, which disturb many demonic actions. And, of course, as Byzantines, we have the Akathists and Canons from our tradition.

Again, possession should be left to the priests who have their bishop’s blessing. But, whenever evil spirits came to harass St. Alphonsus de Liguori, he made a great Sign of the Cross and commanded them to adore this sign of Christ’s redemption of the human race. Then he recited these words from Scripture: “At the name of Jesus,every knee should bow, of those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth”. The saint insisted that the demons had no patience to endure those words, so they fled.

And, finally, Fr. Amorth has recalled that one of his colleagues heard the Devil say during an exorcism: “Every Hail Mary is like a blow on my head. If Christians knew how powerful the Rosary was, it would be my end.”

My Brothers and Sisters, demons are real, and they hate us. But, as Paul reminds us, our God is rich in mercy. He’s given us the authority to fight against them - not in cases of possession, of course, but in so many other ways in which they seek to torment us and impede us from living the Gospel.


  • Remember, Satan is like a prowling lion, seeking to devour you. Be aware of his malevolence.
  • Cling to the sacraments - especially Confession and Eucharist
  • Cling to the Lord and his saints.
  • And, as one of our prokeimena reminds us, REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS.