In Jesus’ time, there was a widespread belief in demons or unclean spirits. Many people were thought to be possessed by demons. Nowadays, we would probably explain their condition as a mental or physical illness. However we understand it, there’s no doubt about the suffering of those who were ‘possessed.’ They were deprived of health and sanity; they might harm themselves or others. They were cut off from family, friends and community.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus meets a man who is said to be possessed by an unclean spirit. Ironically, although the people don’t yet know who Jesus is, the spirit recognises him immediately as the ‘Holy One of God.’ With a word of command, Jesus drives out the demon and the man is restored to health. The people acknowledge Jesus’ authority. They can see that God’s power is at work in him.
Many people today are struggling with different kinds of ‘demons,’ including mental illness or addiction. They can feel lonely and isolated, trapped by their condition and cut off from family and friends. There are ‘demonic’ realities in the wider world, too; racism, hatred and injustice. We can only overcome them if we put our faith in Christ. Even the demons are afraid of him.