Why Can’t We Drive Out the Spirit?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is coming down the mountain with Peter, James, and John following the Transfiguration. They encounter a crowd of people. In the middle of the crowd is a boy who for some time has been possessed by a “mute spirit.” Jesus’ disciples have been unable to exorcise this demon, and so the father turns to Jesus Himself, who commands the unclean spirit to leave the boy and never come back.

The disciples privately ask the Lord about this later. They want to know why they were unable to drive out the spirit. Jesus responds, “This kind can only come out through prayer” (Mk. 9:29).

Some translations of the Bible say “prayer and fasting,” which may better reflect the spiritual commitment that Our Lord is calling for here. In any event, the absence of prayer and perhaps fasting led Jesus to criticize His disciples for their lack of faith (verse 19).

Christ taught that His followers would be able to do great things, but only through faith and prayer.

I think all this has a particular application to us during this year’s election cycle. One of the things Our Lord unequivocally tells His followers to do is to pray for their enemies and persecutors. This would include prayers for everyone who is involved in the abortion industry, as well as politicians who support abortion rights and those who vigorous campaign on their behalf.

And we don’t pray that they’re knocked off or fall out of a building! No, we really must pray for their conversion, that they’ll repent of their cooperation with the evil of abortion. It also doesn’t hurt to fast or offer other sacrifices in reparation for the sins of the “culture of death.” There already have been some notable conversions. Of course, those of former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson and Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade, quickly come to mind. But there still is much work to be done, and like the disciples in today’s Gospel, we can never dispense with the primacy of faith and prayer (and fasting) in our pro-life advocacy.

Archbishop Naumann has emphasized that he wants the Catholic faithful in the Archdiocese of Kansas City and throughout the state of Kansas to fervently pray that our pro-abortion Catholic governor, Kathleen Sebelius, will have a change of heart. I think that’s the right focus for all of us as the election year heats up.

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