Tuesday February 24, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (James 4:1-10) Gospel (St. Mark 9:30-37)
Yesterday, in the homily, we spoke about the reality of the evil spirits. I thought it might be appropriate to explain that with a little bit more detail so that we would understand exactly what it is we are working against.
There are spirits that are broken up into different kinds of categories. There are, for instance, the spirits that are called “cardinal spirits”. Cardinal spirits are the ones that we get in because of repeated sin. If we do the same thing over and over and over again, we open ourselves up to allow the devil in. We do not become possessed by these things, but rather we are oppressed by them. And what we need to do is work them back out by changing the habits that we have and changing our vices into virtues.
There are what are called “ministering spirits”. Ministering spirits are huge things from the higher order of angels. They are the ones that live within the wounds that are inflicted upon us from the time that we are quite young, when there are traumatic things that happen in our lives when we are young (before 12 years old). These are the great, big things that get wrapped around our personality, and because of that, they are very, very difficult to even be able to recognize or to get rid of. The problem with ministering spirits is, first of all, they are exceedingly intelligent, which is why they go after little children rather than adults because their arrogance will not allow them to do anything else. They try to hide behind the personality of the people. These are the ones that will cause pride, selfishness, anger, and also fear. So when we see these kinds of problems in our lives, these are things that are rooted deep, deep within ourselves. They are in the wounds that were inflicted when we were young, and the only way to be able to get rid of them is to get inside and be able to address the woundedness, to heal those wounds that are there through forgiveness, through working through the various things in prayer. Slowly, we will be able to push these things away.
There are also occult spirits. These are the things that get in through occult practices. They can be sent or they can be summoned. For instance, if we allow ourselves to be involved in any kind of occult things: playing with a ouija board, going to a palm reader or to a psychic or somebody like that, getting ourselves into any kind of satanic thing. That is how we are going to get these occult spirits. But they can also be sent by somebody. That is, they can be sent along with a curse. They can be sent by someone who is in the occult, someone who does not like you very much, to cause you lots of problems. These are particularly vile creatures. Because they are occult spirits, they are not very easy to get rid of because they are nasty and tenacious and they fight back, whereas the other ones we can push out. But these are going to cause lots of problems as we try to get rid of them.
Then there are other categories that still fit under these three general headings. There are familial spirits, which are within the family and get passed down; for instance, if there is someone who is in the Masons. The Masons are the lowest form of human life on the face of the earth. They are an occult religion, and they are the most despicable of human beings. In order to move up the ladder, they actually offer their children and their grandchildren and generations down the line in order for their own selfish ambitions to be met. So there are curses that are put upon the families and upon the children, and those get passed down from generation to generation.
There are others that are also generational spirits, familial spirits. One of these, for instance, is incest. That is a generational and familial spirit; it gets passed down from generation to generation. You see the same problems within the family that get passed along. We wonder how it is possible that this can happen generation after generation; it is because of the spirit that is there. There are familiar spirits. That is a different spirit that has a familiarity with you because it was already there and the wound is not necessarily fully healed, so it can come in because there is a woundedness that is already present for it. And there are retaliating spirits. There are all kinds of different ways that these things can get in, but it is just to understand what it is that we are working against.
When we think about the struggles that we have, Saint James in the first reading telling us, for instance, that we have these wars within our members and so on, but the reality is that the war, as Saint Paul tells us, is not against flesh and blood; it is against the principalities and powers of darkness and the rulers of the high places. It is against Satan and his minions, and we need to be clear. We do have our own weaknesses because of our own sins, but the fact of the matter is it is not merely just our little human weakness – it is our human weakness being compounded by something which is a spiritual problem. And in order to deal with a spiritual problem, you have to deal with it in a spiritual way.
So again, as we look now toward Lent beginning tomorrow, it is a matter of how we are going to combat these things. Remember, yesterday Jesus said, “This type can only be gotten rid of by prayer and fasting.” If you really want to be able to make headway on some of these things, you need to pray, you need to take on some penances, and you need to face the things directly. It is all of these things. It is not just a matter of saying, “If I pray it will go away.” It is not just a matter of saying, “If I try to change my habits it will make a difference.” These things will help all by themselves; but if we really want to be able to get rid of the problems in our lives, it is going to require all three of these things: to pray, to do penance, and to work at making the changes that we need, because we have our part to do but it is still a matter of recognizing where the trouble is coming from. Not merely just within our own selves and within our own weaknesses, but by the spirits that are there.
There are also three levels of these things. There are oppressive spirits. Those are the ones that all of us deal with. They are the things that are there causing us the trouble. There are obsessive spirits. That is where a person gets obsessed with occult things. And then there are possessive spirits. That is when a person opens himself up to actually be taken over, to become possessed. That is the one that is very, very rare. We have to understand that just because someone is dealing with spiritual things, which all of us are, it does not mean they are possessed. In fact, it is very rare that someone would be possessed.
I make these distinctions for you simply so you can understand why we struggle the way that we do in our spiritual lives, what it is that we are fighting against, and to help us understand that just because we are struggling against the devil and his minions does not mean that we are possessed and it does not mean that we have given ourselves over to Satan. Some of the things we are completely innocent of: the generational things, the ministering spirits, and so on. The fact is they are still there, and so we have to do our part to work against them. As we look again toward Lent, look seriously at what is going on within your own heart and soul, and make a choice to really fight against them by prayer, by fasting, and by turning directly against the areas of weakness within yourself to throw the devil out by the time that Easter comes.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.