What does today's Gospel mean? (9-October-2015)



usccb.org/bible/readings/100915.cfm (Luke 11:15-26…I’m particularly interested in the last part, the part about an unclean spirit)

Also, what’s the difference between a “demon” and an “unclean spirit”?



If we only look at the last part of the Gospel. We see that the unclean spirit roamed around and found no place to rest so he returned to the person he had inhabited before his journey. The persons interior was free and clear and uninhabited. So he sought our seven more evil spirits to enter with him unto the original person who would then be possessed much more strikingly then the original possession.

I think that his point is that it is not enough to rid yourself of sin or even of to overcome temptation. This would represent the cleaned abode being the persons soul. What must be done is to fill the soul with virtues and grace so that there is no room for the wicked spirit let alone his companions.

Many people today think that salvation is mostly about avoiding sin. All the avoidance of sin accomplishes is to prepare our-self for the transforming action of Sanctifying Grace. Once Sanctifying Grace is present each practice of a virtue increases the grace within us. Acts of faith, hope and charity along with prayer, fasting and penance bring actual grace. These graces help us perseverance. Over time the graces within grow as long as we do nothing to destroy this trans-formative process like committing a mortal sin.

Being consistent in living in Grace would leave no room for uninvited guests.


Wow, that was IMO a good reply. HeartnSoulMan, thank you.


The Gospel of Matthew uses both unclean spirits and devils (demons) in Matthew 10:1 and 10:8 interchangeably.

10:1 AND having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities.

10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give.

The same goes for the parallel passage in Mark 6:7, 13


HeartnSoulMan’s reading of this is good, but I think it’s incomplete, and that’s because we decided only to look at the last section of the reading.

Let’s go back a little bit. But before we do, let me share an anecdote that I think will help illuminate this Scripture.

A few years back I was told a story by an Indian (from India) priest. He said that, though he studied in India, he was ordained in North America and practiced his ministry there. However, early in his career, he made a trip to India to visit friends/family. During his time there, he was walking with a friend through the streets of one of the smaller towns there, and they came upon a crowd of people who were about to witness an exorcism. He said he wasn’t wearing his clerics at the time, so you wouldn’t be able to distinguish him by looking at him, and he wasn’t known there, having spent most of his late youth in the seminary, and then his early career in NA.

When they made their way toward the center of the crowd in order to witness the exorcism, which was being performed by a local witch doctor, they could see there was a man on the ground who looked mad, and the witch doctor was busy laying out his “tools.” But, when they got there, the witch doctor immediately looked up at him, then packed up his things and walked away.

This priest caught up to him to ask him why he didn’t perform the exorcism. The witch doctor was dumbfounded that he didn’t know, but when the priest pressed him, he explained. In order to become a witch doctor, he had to allow himself to become possessed. The way it works is this: there is a hierarchy of authority and power in the spirit world. Demons who are higher up in that hierarchy have authority and power over lower demons. A good witch doctor is one who is possessed by a powerful demon, because that allows him the ability to cast out lesser demons. Not all witch doctors can cast out all demons. It’s entirely dependent on the authority of the demon who has possessed you.

Moreover, in the presence of more powerful demons, lesser demons are obedient, and defer to the authority of the greater spirit. It isn’t that they want to, but they do so because they have to by their very nature. So, when the Jews are accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of demons, this is the kind of thing they’re talking about.

The reason that the witch doctor packed up his things and didn’t perform the exorcism is that in the presence of a priest, the witch doctor’s demon could no longer exercise his authority, even over the lesser demon. This is because, as noted above, lesser spirits defer to the greater authority, and because of the indelible mark on the priest’s soul, the presence of Christ is with him always. So, in the presence of a priest, the demon simply could not exercise his power over the other demon. He has to defer to Christ’s authority. This is why priests, and Jesus Apostles, have the power to cast out demons, because they bear the authority of Jesus.

So what about this passage? I think verses 15-20 are probably self-evident at this point. So let’s look at 21-23. Here, Jesus relates what happens when a strong man is overcome by an even stronger man. The weaker man is defeated, and his possessions are scattered. Then He says “He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”

Jesus here is saying that He is the “strongest.” All who are against Him, scatter. But then He follows this with the bit about the unclean spirit, who leaves, then returns with 7 more. Within the context of possession, demons, the power to cast them out, etc, we have this bit about Jesus scattering all who are against Him.

He even refers to a “armour” that the strong man who was defeated trusted in, but it was to no avail. I would argue that, though the practice of virtue, and keeping God’s commandments, and all of these things, they are wonderful, but they are not enough. The Jews had all of these things, but they alone are not enough. They are the “armour” that is shattered by the stronger man. And if that stronger man is a demon, virtue does not avail.

We must be “with Jesus,” or Jesus must be with us. It is not virtue that we must fill our souls with, though we must certainly do that. It is Jesus and love for Him that we must fill our souls with.

HeartnSoulMan is correct, as long as we understand “Grace” to mean the indwelling of the Divine Life, of the Holy Spirit within us. We must fill ourselves with God, against whom the demons have no power. Filled with God, they cannot even exercise their power in our presence. Against Jesus, they will scatter.


What is the point of Jesus’ grim story about a vacant house being occupied by an evil force? It is not enough to banish evil thoughts and habits from our lives. We must also fill the void with God who is the source of all that is good, wholesome, true, and life-giving for us. Augustine of Hippo said that our lives have a God-shaped void which only God can fill satisfactorily. If we attempt to leave it vacant or to fill it with something else, we will end up being in a worse state in the end.



MrSnaith, holy…wow. That made the metaphorical hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up.



I might add that, if what the witch doctor believes is true about the hierarchy of demons, then the same would be true of angels, as this would simply be an aspect of their spirit natures. I’m not certain if everything he said about it is true, though, because of some other truths of our Faith. For example, Michael the Archangel was successful in casting Satan out of Heaven. However, we understand the Satan (once Lucifer) was originally the “highest” of the Angels. If that’s true, then naturally he would have authority and power over Michael. So, it might be a question of angelic dynamics, or it might be a question of demons deceiving humans (like the witch doctor) into believing we actually have some measure of control over them (a deception made in order to, ultimately, give them power over us).

Whatever the case may be, the reality of Jesus’ power and authority over them remains true, by His own teaching.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.