Army of Heaven
We know as Christians that Jesus, the infinitely perfect holy sacrifice, has cancelled the power of sin and death and redeemed all humanity. Salvation only asks that we believe it is true: with faith.
Sin, lived out in repeating years and even decades, consciously or not, produces the dangerous condition of addiction or loss of freedom, which is capable of destroying the soul.
We come to the Church with faith, to the Sacraments of our Lord, but may still struggle with an oppression, continuing to make the same long-term error. The persistence of oppression amidst the action of the Sacraments may tempt us to impatience, doubt and to abandon the power of the Cross.
In the time before our Lord instituted sacraments, it was prayer and fasting that Jesus prescribed to the apostles, when they failed to work the expulsion of demons from the afflicted.
It is a demon, an unclean spirit that is the most recalcitrant part of addiction or a habit of sin that must be dealt with in receiving the gift of freedom from oppression, obsession and compulsion.
Deliverance minister Neal Lozano in his third book "Resisting the Devil" gives valuable context and insight into the relationship between the sacrament of reconciliation, deliverance ministry and exorcism. In all three a Christian soul experiences the uncovering of a lie, a renunciation of what has been agreed to but is false, and a sending away of an unclean 'spirit' of sin attached to it.
In confession, the penitent is forgiven. The Our Father prayer of our Lord reveals that we are forgiven only in as much as we are willing to forgive others. We are instructed to be forgivers.
Jesus teaches us to forgive others from our hearts. "From our hearts" is a deep place. For example, we may have forgiven our parents or family with noble and right intent for parenting errors, but it is possible that there remains deep resentment over events and mistakes that ended up causing long term unnecessary suffering for us. As recovery progresses, deep truth, virtue formation and the lack of these during formative years can lead addicts to intense feelings of resentment and fury over what was not right but should have been. At last, by these latter revelations we come to the prayer and fasting of deliverance ministry.
Neal Lozano has witnessed to the power in the name of Jesus, prayed with faith and confidence and in agreement in what is asked in the presence of believing others. Deliverance is not equivalent to exorcism, the ritual power of the Church to forcibly expel the unclean from a person who may have no idea they have succumbed to the condition of total possession. A candidate for exorcism often manifests the presence of evil agency, that is, an actual unclean spirit that speaks or acts through them.
Deliverance is a ministering to those who may have 'partial possession'. It is a self-examination assisted by others to expose the chosen or unchosen wounds of life, to reveal the possible resentments we have carried because we were subjected to another's error or imperfection or ignorance or harm, or our own, and to name the enemy whose lies we have agreed with as a consequence, the very 'spirits' of negativity that for a long time have owned or oppressed us.
There are five general levels of enslavement or demonic entanglement: negative emotions, possessive relationships, harassment from outside spirits, obsession or oppression, and possession. All of these are founded on a lie, in one form or another. The entanglement is with a false thought or agreement, and the spirit behind it. The remedy for this we recognize in the recovery fellowship as correcting thinking errors.
These entanglements can be formed before there is knowledge or immersion in Christian life i.e. before conversion, but even "living as disciples will lead to an inner conflict with any hidden sin, unforgiveness, deception, or false understanding of God", shares Mr. Lozano.
Through the power of the name of Jesus, we take courage and identify the lie, with and before compassionate others who hold us in total confidentiality and prayer. Once there is made a repentance of errors (sin), once we have forgiven those implicated in our spiritual harm or developmental compromise, and finally, once there is renunciation in the name of Jesus of the spirit of negativity that has attached itself to all of this unawareness, the demon must leave quietly as commanded.
Once the original entryway of the Enemy into our person has been exposed, how can oppression continue? The light of consciousness, gift of the Spirit of Truth, has come to destroy the darkness the unclean spirit all along required to ferment decay and make death within us. Here then comes at last the breathtaking vista of true freedom in Christ, who brings with Him the Kingdom and the blessing of the Father.
If deliverance were a Sacrament it would be the sacrament of forgiving causes of unchosen unlove, forgiving those faulted things over which there was no original control in our lives.Yet it is a sacrament (small s) because it is often our own brother and sisters of the Christian faithful who become the intermediaries through whom the Spirit of Christ works to cast out and set free. These holy men and women who agree to intercede and 'midwife' us through this experience of self examination, pray and fast before, during and after the actual moment of efficacious action of the Holy Spirit to complete the work. It is not the work of individuals but those that know it is the Spirit of God working through them.
In recent past, deliverance work by non-clergy has been labeled "charismatic" often with a negative connotation of operating outside of the official Sacramental life of the Church. Yet all of us know that recovery fellowships are themselves the work of Christian faithful! Only in confession, spiritual direction or healing retreats do catholics generally have opportunity to receive deeper healing after extensive confidential disclosures before trusted others.
Deliverance ministry is a merciful gift of freedom that can work in one afternoon what might take years anywhere else. Yet we must be ever prepared and follow the Spirit when He wills, as our freedom through deliverance can be closely associated with health in our flesh and minds, and being built up in grace that grants control over temptations in the world. We can lose freedom even after deliverance, from a disease of doubt or from lack of complicity with God's will or failing to give away what we ourselves have received.
Deliverance ministry is by its very nature evangelical,which may be why the Lord has allowed this 'small s' sacrament to do its work outside of the Sacraments of the Church, to spread the Gospel 'out there' close to the action. If we receive we must be willing to give away the same gift.
Dear Jesus, give us the wisdom to know what can be changed and when we are ready and to be committed to help others receive the gift of deliverance from unfreedom that we ourselves receive. Amen.