Can demons cause epilepsy, cancer, heart disease, flu, colds, and other illnesses? Or is this just an ancient superstition? Are sicknesses always due to scientific medical reasons, or can angels and demons have a significant influence?
This question is explored by Fr. Joseph Gleason, an Orthodox priest who served for years in the American midwest, and then moved to Russia with his wife and eight children. Listen to the podcast in the following link, or read the full transcript below.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Think about a father, and mother, and their child, taking a walk. They go down the path, and the path splits into two parts. The first part is beautiful, and is very easy to walk on. But, there are dangers. Along the path there are many venomous serpents which may attack. Down the second path, it's more difficult. There are more hills, more valleys, places where it's going to be hard to walk. But, there are no venomous serpents.
This father and mother decide to take the first path. Now, it mostly goes fine, for a while. But they get about half-way down, and they stop for a minute, and they're looking up at one of the trees, and suddenly there is screaming. Their child is screaming in horrible pain because a venomous serpent has come up from behind and has attacked the child.
Well, of course the parents are horrified. They love their child, and they don't want anything bad to happen to their child, so they scoop up their child, and they start running. They finally get to the road, and they ask for help. They get to the hospital, and they beg the doctors, saying, "Please, is their anything you can do to help our child?" And by this point, the venom has really started setting in, and the child has gone unconscious, so the parents are even more worried about what's going to happen.
There is another father, and mother, and child, and they start walking down the same path. They come to the point where it splits in two, but instead of taking the easy path, they take the difficult one, because they want to avoid the serpents. It takes longer, they stumble a couple of times, they get tired, but they finally make it to the road unharmed. There were no venomous serpents along that path, and so they made it through okay.
Now, both sets of parents love their children. They don't want anything bad to happen to their kids. They want to do anything they can to help them. But which set of parents did a better job of being good parents? Which set of parents loved their children more? Well, obviously the second set of parents did a better job. It is good to take your child to the hospital if they need help. But it's even better to keep your child from getting hurt in the first place. It's better to keep them from being bitten by snakes at all.
Now let's change the picture a little bit. Instead of venomous snakes, let's imagine that that first path has demons, actual evil spirits just waiting there to attack you and your family. Which path are you going to take? If you're going for a walk with your child, are you going to walk down the first path, and risk being attacked by demons, or are you going to walk down the second path and avoid them? Well obviously, the wise thing, the loving thing, is to take the second path. Go wherever the demons are not. Avoid them.
So the real question is, how do we invite the demons, and how do we drive them away? How do we ensure that we take the path that keeps us away from the evil spirits?
According to Holy Scripture, there are certain types of music which drive away evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:23). And it follows that there also are types of music which attract them. Same goes for books and television shows. There are books and TV shows which glorify lust, and violence, and anger, fornication, adultery, and all sorts of wicked types of thinking. But there are also books and TV shows which are honorable, and which uphold holy, righteous, godly ways of thinking.
Which books should you be reading, and which should you be avoiding? Which television shows should you be watching, and which should you be avoiding? The ones that drive away the demons, or the ones that attract them?
Now you know if a venomous snake bites you, they inject this venom into your body, and you can get sick, or you can even die. Well, the demons also have the ability to hurt us physically. According to this Gospel reading, this particular person was epileptic (Matthew 17:14-21). Now, we still have epileptics today; it is a real medical condition. You can lose consciousness, you start having seizures uncontrollably, you can be drooling and frothing at the mouth, it can cause injury, or in some cases people can even die.
Now, I am not saying that every case of epilepsy, I am not saying that every case of sickness, is directly caused by a demon. But what I know for sure is that sometimes these things are caused by demons. I know this because Scripture says so. In this particular case, this person had epilepsy because they were being attacked by an evil spirit.
We also know the reverse is true. Angels can help bring healing to people. The Gospel talks about a case where an angel would stir up the water, and the first person that would get in the water after that happened would be healed of their illness (John 5:4).
So, angels and demons affect us physically. If you invite demons into your life, you're inviting sickness and death. If you drive away the demons, and you invite the holy angels, then you're inviting health and life.
So which path are you going to walk down with your family? Are you going to walk down the path full of venomous serpents? Are you going to walk down the path full of demons? Are you going to watch television shows, read books, listen to music that invites the demons?
What about the way that you speak? Are you going to use a sharp tongue? Are you going to use an angry tone of voice, are you going to be impatient? Are you going to speak words with your mouth that invite the demons into your home? Or, are you going to control your tongue? Are you going to have a sweet, gentle, patient spirit, and talk kindly to your spouse, kindly to your children?
It's normal for parents to love their children and to want the best for them. And if your child gets sick, if your child is suffering, you go to the doctor and you seek for help. This is good, this is what a parent should do. But, we need to take responsibility, and realize that sometimes — not always — but sometimes, sickness is caused by something that is our fault. Because we were being ungodly in the music we were listening to, the words that we were speaking in our homes, the books that we were reading, the television shows and movies that we were watching, we have unwittingly invited demons, evil spirits, into our homes. And there are many cases in which these evil spirits cause sickness and even death for our family members.
Now, I still think there is a place for medicine, and for doctors, and I realize that there are cases where you can do everything right, and still, in this world we suffer from sicknesses and diseases. It happens. I understand that. But why would we want to invite the demons? Why would we want to intentionally walk down the path that invites sickness and death?
We need to take responsibility, we need to repent of our sins and of our misdeeds, and we need to make sure that we are being pure in our actions. It's not appropriate for us to just come to church on Sundays, and go to confession, hear the liturgy, take the Eucharist, and then go home and live as if there is no God the rest of the week. That would be like walking the safe path one day a week, and then walking the path full of serpents for six days a week. That would be foolishness, and if you keep doing that, eventually you're going to get bitten. If you truly love your spouse, if you truly love your children, then it is crucial to walk the safe path seven days a week.
- That doesn't mean that you reduce the amount of filthy books that you read. It means you don't read them at all.
- That doesn't mean that you reduce the amount of ungodly music that you listen to. It means that you don't listen to that at all.
- It doesn't mean that you reduce the ungodly movies and television shows that you watch. It means that you don't watch them at all.
- It doesn't mean that you reduce the amount of sharp, angry, and filthy speaking that you do. It means that you don't do it at all. Not even a hint. Not even a little bit.
If we love our spouses, if we love our children, then we must walk the safe path seven days a week. We need to seek purity in our lives on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, just as much as we do on Sunday. We need to seek purity and holiness in our lives on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday just as much as we do on Sunday. Only by taking this seriously, and by seeking holiness before the Lord on a daily basis, only in this way can we drive the demons away from our homes, and invite the holy angels, and truly be able to expect the blessing of God in our lives.
May the Lord have mercy on us, and help us to consistently walk the path of holiness in our day to day lives.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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