YOU NEED TO BE POSSESSED!
Zech.9: 9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11: 25-30
Spirit possession is a term for the belief that animas, demons, extraterrestrials, gods or spirits can take control of a human body. This concept of Spirit Possession exists in many religions including Christianity, Buddhism, Haitian Vodoo, Islam and even in the African Traditional Religion.
Many a time, we hear people claim that agwu mara m (a particular spirit of deity is on/following me) to serve as its servant or priest. We also hear of different spirit possession like one being possessed by the spirit of sleep, of drunkenness, of prostitution, of cultism, marine spirit (ogbanje) etc.
Hence we hold that such persons need exorcism, that is the religious or spiritual practice of purportedly evicting demons or spiritual entities from a person or area they are believed to have possessed. On this fourteenth Sunday of the ordinary Time, the Church calls us in a special way to be possessed, not by any demon but like Christ, to allow the Spirit of God to possess us.
In the second reading, St Paul calls on all baptized Christians to be possessed not by the unspiritual, but by of the Spirit of God. St Paul in his letter to the Romans differentiated two types of the spirit, the unspiritual (the Flesh) and the Spiritual (Spirit). The first refers to the evil nature present in Adam and still present in the regenerate man, this spirit breeds pride and all forms of worldliness (Gal. 5:19-21).
The second spirit is for St Paul the Spirit of Christ which breeds humility, obedience etc (Gal 5:22-23). This Spirit is what Christ in the Gospel of today makes clear. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father and no one knows the Son except the Father (Matt. 11:27) It is the Spirit of the Father that took control of Christ to achieve the work of man’s redemption, thus He said The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…. (Luke 4:18). When we accept this Spirit, God controls us, thereby becoming our King. The Prophet Zechariah in the first reading makes clear, the various benefits that will bring joy, which fills the person, possessed by the Spirit of God, raising the hope of such genuine Christians.
As children of God, we are expected to live lives worthy of our calling (Eph.4:1), hence it is contradictory Christians to be possessed by evil spirit in any form. In other words, we need to live as children of light. There are certain qualities that define a person possessed by the Spirit of the Lord, some of which are: Humility, obedience to God and constituted authorities, gentility, compassionate to the poor and weak masses, Chastity, Forgiving, Honesty and truthfulness, Gratitude to God in worship, Contentment with one’s possessions, Generosity, Purity and holiness, Confidence in God, Available to the needy, wisdom, Diligence to our work, Reverence to God, childlike faith, Hospitable, Prudence, Submissiveness to God, Servant leadership, Justice and fairness, Courage to face all situation and trials to mention but a few.
Every other bond of union with Christ is of no avail without the possession of the Spirit of God. We may be members of His Church, yet unless we share that vital union which comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we become Christians only in name. If the Spirit of God lives in you, you will become a temple where God lives by His Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Since we are all temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.6:19), we should strive to enjoy His presence in our hearts and avoid the burdens or sins that takes Him away from us, so that He may reveal to us His hidden purpose.
Let us also be aware that our baptism does not make us infallible or failsafe from the man’s frail nature inherited from Adam. Hence Jesus beckons us to His ultimate power, “Come to me all who labor and are overburdened” (Mtt11:29). These burdens may include our sinfulness, our daily needs, our families, community, nation (Nigeria or Biafra), the Church, our enemies etc. This invitation of Christ is for those who humbly, sincerely and earnestly seek God and his Spirit, aware of their weakness and ready to surrender all their being to God.
Many figures in the Holy Scriptures who were possessed with God’s Spirit lost this Spirit and were filled with another Spirit. These figures like King Saul, Samson, Gehazi ended up losing more. Whenever we lose this Spirit of God, we can gain it back through the Sacrament of healing (Penance) and live like Elijah, Isaiah, Deborah, King David etc. Christ our stronghold (Prov.18:10) promises our souls rest in Him, a release from the experience of serving God as a burden but as a sweet experience of rest.
These people who are possessed with God’s spirit embrace the yoke of Christ, the whole of our Christian responsibilities and duties. Servants were said to be under the yoke of their masters and subjects under the yoke of their rulers (1Tim,6:1; 1 kings 12:10). Therefore to take the yoke of Christ signify putting ourselves as servants and subjects of Christ and conducting ourselves accordingly.
For the Jews, the yoke is a wooden instrument, place on the neck of two cattle so that they could together, pull the plough as one. There must be two beings to pull the plough, therefore, Jesus asking us to take the yoke, He Himself becomes our willing partner. The yoke is Christ’s but we carry it with Him, associating and identifying ourselves with Him. Possessed by His Spirit, our destiny becomes His, our vision and mission become his too, He assists us with His strength and as a teacher, He gives us homework and also helps us to do it. He goes in and with us, aware of the dangers of our paths.
A story that explains God’s abiding presence in persons that He possess is: A man in his dream saw himself walking along a sandy beach with Jesus and they were replaying all the important moments of his life. The man noticed that for each scene there were two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to the man and the other to Jesus. But he noticed that when they came to the most difficult and trying times of his life, there were only one set of footprints to be seen. The man could not understand this, so he asked Jesus, “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. Why is it then that the most difficult period of my life, when I needed you the most you would leave me?” Jesus replied, “My child, I love you and I would never leave you. During the most difficult moments of your life, when you see only one set of footprints, those were the times I carried you” END OF STORY.
Let us pray to God with Most Rev. Kasomo Daniel saying, “Lord help me to remember that there is no problem today that you and I can’t handle”. This is how the yoke becomes easy and burden light.
All Christians are called to be possessed by the Spirit of God but not all Christians are possessed by the Spirit of God. Each one of us has the freedom to choose the spirit to possess us. You have the freedom to choose either God’s Spirit or evil’s spirit to possess, no matter your status, be you Priests, Religious, Knights of the Church, Altar Servers, Mary League, etc. There is no automatic spirit for certain persons.
Yesterday was the Priestly Ordination of our brothers around the Diocese, which type of Spirit would you prefer to be in them? Materialism or poverty, disobedience or obedience, pride or humility? They choose these spirits by themselves. What of you? Which Spirit are you possessed with? Spirit of God or evil spirit? When you exorcise the Spirit of God in you, you are doomed to die (Rom.8:13) but you will live when you exorcise the spirits of demons and worldinesss.
Remember, you cannot be slave to two masters, you must choose one. Choose the Spirit of God and live. With the Spirit of God in you, we say with the Psalmist in saying I will bless your name o God my King. (Ps 144:1)