Say But The Word And I Shall Be Healed
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
It was the last day of the Second National Charismatic Convention, held in October 1976 on the grounds of St. Peter's Church, Bandra, Mumbai. Our main speaker, Ralph Martin, the international charismatic pioneer from USA, had just concluded his last inspiring talk on the theme of the Convention, 'Jesus the Lord, the Light of Life'. I was then asked to lead the prayer of commitment for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. As I was making a preparatory prayer of deliverance, there was a great commotion among the people and, to our great consternation, there came out from amidst them the cries of those who seemed to be afflicted by presumably evil spirits.
One particular girl caused the greatest disturbance as she rolled violently on the ground and gave the most unearthly shrieks. She was carried away by force from the Convention grounds and kept in the Church till the crowds had dispersed. Ralph Martin came to see her and Fr. Jim Borst, MHM, and Fr. Marcelino, OCD, ventured to pray over her but the backlash was too disquieting, and we felt prudence was the better part of valor. I advised Sr. Winifred, of the Sisters of St. Anne of Providence, to take the girl back to the flat on St. Paul's Road, Bandra, where her group of college girls from Secunderabad was accommodated, and assured her I would come early in the morning to pray for the girl.
I kept to my promise despite my exhaustion. The moment the girl saw me entering the dining room of the flat, she got up abruptly from her breakfast and had hardly taken a few steps when she collapsed on the floor. She became enraged and turned terribly violent; dashing her head against the wall and lashing out at everyone with her arms and legs. Her friends managed to lift her up and pin her down on the bed, holding fast her four limbs. We then began interceding in tongues for her deliverance, hour after hour, but there was not the slightest improvement in her condition. She just continued to keep her lips clenched and her eyes shut but the demonic presence in her was unmistakable. I felt helpless and powerless, not knowing what to do next, as her friends looked at me beseechingly for help.
I went to the next room, shut the door and asked the Lord why nothing seemed to happen in answer to our prolonged and fervent prayers (cfr Mt 6:6). No answer. Just a deafening silence. And then I found myself entreating the Lord in words that sounded familiar to me, "Speak, Lord. I am listening" (1 Sam 3:10). I believe that at that very moment the Lord did answer. For in a flash there came to my mind the Gospel incident of the man begging Jesus to deliver his son, who was being attacked by a demon that kept him from talking, but dashed him to the ground, making him foam at the mouth, grit his teeth, writhe in pain, and then he became stiff and rigid, - for his disciples were not able to cast it out. When therefore Jesus had cast out the unclean spirit and set the boy free, his disciples asked him later when they were alone at home, "Why couldn't we cast out that demon?", Jesus answered, "Only prayer can force out that kind of demon", or, to put it in another translation, "Nothing else will work here - but prayer" (Mk 9:29).
I knew then that the Lord had spoken to me through his eternal and life giving Word in the Bible. For I now realized that, in being busy like Martha with the preparations for the Convention, I had unwittingly neglected personal prayer and scripture reading (Lk 10:38-42). I thanked the Lord for disclosing to me the reason for my pastoral failure and prostrated myself full length on the floor in deep repentance for quite some time, assuring him that I would never forget the important lesson he had taught me the hard way. I then cried out to him on my knees to do something right now, since the group had to catch the afternoon train to return to their hometown. I got up with a deep inner peace knowing that the Lord had heard my prayer.
I went back to the room, where the girl was being held, and prayed silently to the Lord for discernment and direction. As if in answer to my quiet prayer, she at once loosened her right hand. Her friends were about to pounce on it, but I motioned them to hold back. Still somewhat in a trance she scribbled on the bed sheet with her finger what seemed to be alphabets, and her hand went back to its previous position. I knew then without a doubt that the Lord had chosen to speak to me in this way, but, since I had not expected it, I had not paid notice. Again I prayed silently, "Lord, thank you for communicating with me in this unexpected way, but I am sorry that I did not pay attention. If you don't mind, please speak or write again." Once again, as if in answer to my silent prayer, the girl loosened her right hand a second time and, with her eyes and lips still closed tightly, inscribed the same alphabets clearly, which we now observed carefully, and withdrew her hand. To our bewilderment she had written one by one the alphabets of two words: 'DEAF' and 'DUMB'. We tried to figure out what it all meant, but we just could not make anything out of it.
A third time I spoke to the Lord somewhat sheepishly, "I can't make head or tail of these two words. If you don't mind, Lord, kindly convey your message in full grammatical sentences and not in enigmatic telegraphic form." And for the third time, in answer to my unspoken prayer, with her eyes still closely shut, the girl traced the same words, clearly and carefully, in perfectly formed alphabets, as if the Lord was reminding me, "I don't speak more than necessary. You know the Bible well. Then you should know what these words are hinting at." I prayed silently for the fourth time and the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the very same incident in Mark's Gospel where the Lord had cast out a deaf and dumb spirit from the tormented boy. I knew then that there was also in this girl the same deaf spirit that caused our long prayers to fall literally on deaf ears, and the same dumb spirit that prevented the girl from revealing its identity in spite of my persistent commands. The Lord had indeed spoken to me a second time through his Holy Word in the Sacred Scriptures.
I thanked him softly for this incredible revelation. The evil spirit seemed to know that I was aware of his identity and that his time was up. He became all the more furious and in utter futility attempted to kick me. Then using the almost very same words of Jesus in the Gospel, I said in his name, "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you: come out of her and never enter her again" (Mk 9:25). And, as in the same Gospel story, it came out with a scream, and the girl lay there motionless like a corpse, but peaceful, for some time. Then she got up as if from some deep restful sleep, joyfully radiant, and in time to board the train for home with her group, rejoicing and praising the Lord for his love and power. (I learnt later that the girl became a very dynamic youth evangelist in her town, whereas before there had been a lot of occult practices in her family background).
Even today the Lord "makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak" (Mk 7:37), as our own ears are attentive to him speaking to us through his Word and by his Spirit, and our own mouth is prompt to speak to him in prayer, knowing that he is always attentive to our pleas. "They cried out to the Lord in their distress and he rescued them", says the Psalmist, "for he uttered his healing Word and they escaped from the jaws of death" (Ps 107:19,20). From then on I became more than ever convinced that the Bible, though written centuries ago, is the Book of the Spirit (the Soul of the Church) and of the Church (the Body of Christ), and is therefore God's Word to and for us today. It is both God's Wisdom and Revelation, our Rule of life, enlightening us and revealing and proclaiming his loving plan to us; as well as God's Dynamic Power, that created us then and now carries out his saving and life giving purposes in us in a variety and most unexpected of ways, for his Word carries and is the answer to every problem in every situation (Is 55:11).
That becomes possible when, firstly, we go gladly to the written text itself and become familiar with it, as the Vatican document on Divine Revelation urges us to do; secondly, we treasure and ponder that word, read or heard, in our hearts, like Mary did; thirdly, we listen to and interiorize that word in prayer, seeking to understand clearly, correctly and profoundly its message; fourthly, we make an act of unquestionable faith in the promise it contains; and fifthly, we act on its demands, as Mary did, saying, "Be it done to me according to your Word" (cfr Is 55:11). We can then go our way thanking God and testifying to man that, "God has spoken to his people, Alleluia! and his Words are words of wisdom and of power, Alleluia!"
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Led by the Spirit reproduced with permission from Charisindia. Copyright © Fr. Rufus Pereira. All rights reserved.