Authority over Demons

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9; First Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28. This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

I’ve read many term papers in my day.  Most of them are no more than a patchwork of quotes.  That’s because college students are smart enough to know that they really can’t say much on their own authority – to make their case, they have to lean on the authority of others more learned than themselves.

That’s exactly how the scribes and Pharisee’s taught in Jesus’ day.  “Rabbi Abraham says this. . . Rabbi Gamaliel says that . . .

So when a new young rabbi appears in Capernaum, this is what people expect.  They are in for a surprise: he quotes no one else except God’s Word.  That’s because there is no one more learned than He.  In fact, he happens to be God’s Word made flesh.

But he doesn’t just speak to the humble townspeople this way.  When he encounters superhuman forces that strike fear into the hearts of men, he is unruffled.  There are no incantations; he does not plead.  Rather than Jesus being afraid of them, the demons are afraid of him.  Upon seeing them, they shriek.  He calmly commands – “shut up and get out.”  A moment later all is still.  A former victim is now a free man and bystanders marvel.  Word easily travels fast – little Capernaum happens to be right on a caravan route from Syria to the region of Galilee and beyond.

But isn’t all this talk of demons just a relic of the mythological world view of pre-scientific people?  After all, these primitive folks don’t know about mental illness, chemical imbalance, viruses, and bacteria.  Surely they just explained what they could not understand in terms of the supernatural.

That sounds very sophisticated, but it’s dead wrong.  First of all, demons are not supernatural at all.  Supernatural means above and beyond nature or creation – in other words, uncreated and transcendent.  Only God qualifies for this label.

St. Thomas called the realm of angels and demons “preternatural” since it escapes the sensory knowledge that we can have of the rest of creation.  We human beings were created by God as enfleshed spirits.  But divine revelation tells us that God also created pure spiritual beings with the same freedom we have.  Those who have chosen to use that freedom to serve God we call “angels” or messengers.  Those who used their freedom to defy God are called demons.  Pride and envy lead them to hate not only God, but us who are made in God’s image and likeness.

So people in Jesus day had good cause to fear demons – they are hostile and powerful.  Plus, their intelligence is superior to ours – note that the demon in the story, unlike the humans, instantly recognized who Jesus was.

Okay, the ancients may have attributed too much to demonic influence, but moderns tend to make the opposite error.  The existence of the angelic and demonic realm is part of the ordinary teaching of the Church’s Magisterium, clearly reaffirmed clearly by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI In fact when we say in the Creed that we believe in the Creator of heaven and earth, “of all things visible and invisible,” the invisible things refer precisely to this world.

So why is it important to believe that such creatures exist?  Because the first rule of warfare is to know your enemy.  Paul tells us clearly in Ephesians 6:12 “Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers . . . the evil spirits.”

Only God has power over this world.  Jesus, in commanding the demons, as he later in the Gospel commands the wind and the waves, does only what God can do.  Once we are joined to Christ, the enemy has no more authority or power over us.  Unless, of course, we give it to him through sin.  If we cling to the Lord and listen to him, we have nothing to worry about.  If not, we have lots to worry about.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. Tell your family and friends about this article using both the Share and the Recommend buttons below and via email. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

Print this entry

About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

Author Archive Page

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *