I was struck by a line in yesterday’s Gospel that I think speaks to catechists:
“Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits…” (Mt 10:1)
Two things in particular strike me. One is the notion of authority. Catechists need to know that they have been given authority to teach. All authority belongs to God, who is the Author of all of creation. God, in turn, has given all authority to Jesus (Mt. 28:18). Jesus, in turn, has given authority to the Church (Mt. 16:19). The Church, in turn, authorizes catechists, to minister in Jesus’ name, proclaiming the Gospel. We are to teach with authority because we have been given (entrusted with) that authority. Knowing this should give us confidence and courage to do our work.
Second, I’m struck by the notion of “expelling unclean spirits.” For so long, I associated this verse strictly with the notion of “driving out demons” from people who are “possessed.” In many ways, I’ve dismissed this phrase an anachronistic…harkening back to a time when people thought that many maladies (which today we can diagnose and treat) were caused by demonic possession. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that the term “unclean spirits” need not be (nor should be) interpreted in such fantastical supernatural terms. We ALL deal with unclean spirits – those “forces” that separate us from the love of God and render us “unclean” – not fit to participate in the divine life. The most basic examples would, of course, be the Seven Deadly Sins: pride, covetousness, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth. We are all too familiar with these “unclean spirits” from our own lives and we see them in the lives of those we teach. IT IS OUR JOB AS CATECHISTS TO EXPEL THESE UNCLEAN SPIRITS! Not through rituals of exorcism but through our teaching: we have been given authority to expel that which is contrary to the will of God.
We don’t have to become some kind of wacky Benny Hinn-type preacher to expel unclean spirits. We just have to teach the Gospel with authority – with confidence and courage, knowing that the Author of Life has revealed the truths we are imparting!