St Gregory of Nyssa
The man in today’s Gospel is not the only one “with an unclean spirit”. Many people have at least one unclean spirit; Mary Magdalene had seven. We can be like the Pharisees, who used to “clean the outside of the cup and the dish” – as we wash up before going to church – “while inside they are full of every kind of evil”.
St Gregory of Nyssa has some advice for people like that. “Offer your souls to God”, he says, “with the one thought of pleasing the Lord, and never lose your awareness of heavenly things”. The man in the Gospel was aware that it was the sabbath, and did not let the unclean spirit keep him away from the synagogue.
That was the spirit’s fatal mistake. “For”, says St Gregory, “it is death to the devil when his efforts to use his evil power are unsuccessful.” Jesus rebuked him and said to the man in colloquial Aramaic, “Shut up and come out of him”.
With us the power of Jesus is more subtle but no less real. Jesus comes into our souls at holy communion. And the result is what St Gregory says it is: “With the love of God present among you, all other good is bound to follow: brotherly love, gentleness, guilelessness, zeal, and perseverance in prayer, and indeed every virtue”.