For when we’re talking about family members who are caught in mortal sin, spouses who are battling addictions, or relationships bound in bitterness, anger, and division, we are most often dealing with a battle against strongholds:
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12)
Anyone who thinks this is folklore ought to rent the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose—a powerful, moving, true story with a remarkable ending. Although hers is an extreme case of possession, many people, including Christians, can experience spirits of oppression and obsession.
A chain link is held on both ends. In order to break oneself or another free from the bonds of evil in certain cases, Jesus offered two means, two ways to be freed from both ends:
This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29)
By adding fasting to our prayers, Jesus gives us a powerful recipe of grace to overcome the activity and presence of evil in our family, particularly when it is strong. (Our tradition also teaches us of the graces of holy water or blessed objects. An experienced exorcist can tell you how powerful Jesus works through these sacramentals.)
Oy… I know that’s what many of you are thinking… the Rosary… fasting… ugh. Sounds like work! But perhaps this is where our faith is tested and our love purified. The Holy Father himself has re-introduced these devotions at this time in the history of the Church—-a time when perhaps we face our greatest trial very soon. We need the most effective means available to us to build our faith, and defend our families.
In fact, when the apostles could not cast out a demon, Jesus says to them it is
Because of your little faith. (Matt 17:20)
And grace doesn’t come cheap. Our faith in Christ must eventually meet the Cross—that is, we must also be willing to suffer. Jesus said that whoever would follow him must “deny himself” and pick up his cross. Through prayers and fasting for others, we carry our own, as well as other’s crosses.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
What a privilege we have to love others so practically by offering our prayers and suffering for them!
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought… (1 Peter 4:1)
If we arm ourselves with this same willingness to love through sacrifice, miracles will happen. For then our suffering is a sign of faith which Jesus said can move mountains—mountains in our loved one’s lives.
Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon… He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. (Matt 15:22-28)
Yes, even our little scraps of faith and effort are enough, though they be only the size of a mustard seed.