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96. The Devil Cares (Mark 1:21-28)

“Here it is fitting for us to think of that great, true, eternal light… namely Christ our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, who was made man and came to the last extremity of the human condition.”
- St. Gregory Agrigentinus

Mark 1:21-28: They went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority. In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

Christ the Lord  Authority: coming from the “author.” Those who heard and saw Jesus were impressed most by his authority. The “scribes,” the teachers of the Jewish law, prided themselves on a detailed knowledge of the scriptures and on the myriad scriptural commentaries that rabbis and teachers had made through the centuries, but their words lacked the force of Christ’s. Jesus Christ in himself is the fulfillment of all previous and partial revelation. He “has seen the Father” (John 6:46) and reveals him.

Whether we realize it or not, in our hearts we yearn for God, and so when we come into contact with someone close to God, our hearts are moved. When the crowds came into contact with Jesus Christ, the Son of God become man, their hearts burst with astonished joy. Jesus is no average teacher, nor even a great human preacher. Jesus Christ is Lord, the “Holy One of God,” and when he began his public ministry, the people could tell.

Christ the Teacher  We are only in the first chapter of St Mark’s Gospel, and already the devil makes his appearance. One of his minions has taken possession of a child of God and cries out in panic at the Savior’s approach.

The story of Christ’s life and ministry cannot be told without giving due space to Satan’s activity. The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between cases of mere physical ailments and cases of a demonic character (both of which Jesus cures). Jesus frequently refers to the devil in his parables and other teachings, and the devil himself tempts Jesus in the desert and returns again later to engineer Judas’ betrayal (cf. John 13:2).

This Gospel motif teaches us an undeniable, if uncomfortable lesson: the devil is real, and he is interested in counteracting the work of grace. In one sense, accepting this fundamental truth, and keeping it always in the back of our minds, can comfort us tremendously: it helps us make sense of all the unpleasant influences at work in and around us. We are not crazy; we are not failures; we are simply engaged in a spiritual battle. If we believe in Jesus Christ, we must also believe in the devil – doomed as he is, he would love to take as many souls as he can along with him.

Christ the Friend  Imagine how the man with the unclean spirit would have felt after this incident. He had been tormented by an evil presence perhaps for years. His life was a series of momentary respites from unending and violent demonic attacks. He had no comfort in family, no rest in friendships, no capacity to carry on a normal, peaceful existence. To a great extent he had lost his most precious gift, freedom. His only hope in the face of such a hell on earth was the direct intervention of God – a miracle.

Perhaps while he was listening to Jesus in the synagogue he felt the agitation of the evil spirit. Perhaps he could sense that the demon felt threatened; perhaps he moved closer to the Lord, drawn by a mysterious, subconscious hope. Suddenly the spirit exerts his usual power and takes over the man’s body and senses (who can describe the agony of such an experience?) in order to lash out at the Holy One. With a mere word, Jesus silences him and orders him to depart. The man is thrown to the ground in a final burst of evil fury and then, silence. Peace. Dare he believe it? He opens his eyes and knows that he is now himself again, freed at last from the unspeakable torment. His eyes meet Christ’s…. What gratitude fills his heart! What love and gladness he finds in the glance of Jesus! Jesus Christ came to bring new life and new hope to every human heart, and he rejoices whenever we let him have his way.

Christ in My Life  Lord Jesus, please help me to experience the power of your grace. Let me hear the words that astonished your listeners when you first came to earth; let me witness the divine authority that flowed out of your every decision and deed. Dear Jesus, it’s so hard to stay in tune with your truth; please let me see you, hear you, and love you more and more…

Parts of me are still in chains, Lord. I am still possessed by selfishness. Free me, Lord. Free me from this weight of egoism that keeps me from being all that you created me to be! You are the Lord; come rule in my heart, my mind, my words, and my actions. Rule them all today, tomorrow, and forever…

How many souls are enslaved to sin and unknowingly under Satan’s evil spell – confused, depressed, headed for destruction! Jesus, you came to save them all. Your Church is your sacrament of salvation. Here I am, Lord – send me as your ambassador. Fill me with love so I might bring your light to those around me who are in need…


PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at and questions and answers on the spiritual life at FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", Inside the Passion--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Meditations for Mothers, and A Guide to Christian Meditation.

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  • judeen

    the devil beleives in Jesus Christ as savior and redemer.. the satanist know and beleive in the true presence of Jesus in the Holy Eurchrist… many ignore the power of Jesus .. or do not want to beleive. or even do not except the miricals.. that happen during mass and adoration.. yet evil knows, as in scripture possed people would follow Jesus yelling or throw themselves down.. – there is a big reason to stay right with God.. a big reason to stear away from sin, yet under the power of the Praise of God evil can not enter us

  • aileen

    Thank you.

  • Mary@42

    Again, thank you, Father John for this powerful Post.  I make this Prayer my very own  

    Parts of me are still in chains, Lord. I am still possessed by selfishness. Free me, Lord. Free me from this weight of egoism that keeps me from being all that you created me to be! You are the Lord; come rule in my heart, my mind, my words, and my actions. Rule them all today, tomorrow, and forever…” 
     From the deepest, contrite part of my heart I cry…..the day is far, far gone, Jesus….I beg you again….do not leave me now…..the frightening shadows of the night are gathering on the Western Horizon for me…..break the chains that are shackling me in the dungeon of the Seven Deadly sins and all sinful tendencies……heal me…..immerse me in the Fountain of the Blood and Water gushing from Your pierced Heart……hold my hand firmly and do not slacken that hold….because if you do, my Merciful Jesus, I shall surely perish and fall headlong into perdition

  • Ronald King

    Father, I have a question or two.  When the “unclean” spirit asked if He came to destroy them Jesus told him to be quiet after the spirit recognized Him as the “Holy One of God” and then orderered him out of the man.  The first question is, if the spirit is unclean does the possibility exist with God to be able to clean that spirit.  Second question is, why did He not destroy the unclean spirit?  Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Dear Friend – my apologies but we don’t have the capacity/resources to dig into speculative theology though it would often be interesting to do so…

  • judeen

    in a deep conversion of a big sinner.. – before retreats – or during the retreats.1 is attacked.. st. vicent de paul talks about this.. fights.. things going wronge.. feeling sick are all attacks from the devil.. heard a preist say he was going to stop prison miniestry for everything happens.. messages get lost.. all kinds of bad things… but this is a sign that the devil is mad.. and there is conversions of souls , dont stop.. for your making a difference by saveing souls