Recycling makes me nervous. I’m always afraid I’m putting something in the wrong box, especially in a public place. At least I don’t live in Japan, where you get a red sticker of shame if you don’t separate things properly—and in some places there are as many as twelve categories.
I’m particularly nervous about recycling my homilies. One of my professors did that in the seminary chapel. It must have been a good homily, since we all recognized it from four years earlier!
Today I’m not trying to fool anyone. If you were at the 11 or 5 Masses last Sunday, you’ve already heard much of what I’m going to say. But since most folks who come at 9 come regularly, I want you to hear the same message I gave to the rest of the parish.
It’s not because I’m completely ready to launch something new. But I feel the Lord is calling us to something new, and I need you to be thinking and praying about it.
The something new is called ‘Unbound’ ministry. I spent a week in California learning about it, and was very convinced—and personally blessed—by what I heard.
But before I could be convinced, there was something I had to get over. Unbound is a way to pray for deliverance. And I found deliverance a scary word.
It didn’t take long for me to sort out my problem with deliverance. I only needed two books: the dictionary and the Bible.
The dictionary made me realize that ‘deliverance’ is the noun for which ‘deliver’ is the verb. You know: “…deliver us from evil”—the words we use every time we say the Our Father. So unless the Our Father’s scary, praying for deliverance isn’t scary. It’s normal.
But even if it’s normal, we don’t really know how to do it.
Yet we all need deliverance—freedom from the things that oppress us, hold us back, or lead us to sin.
Let me give you an example. Every Catholic understands repentance. We repent when we sin. And we all try to resist temptation. We fight not to commit sin.
But there’s something missing. Let’s look at someone with a very short temper. It’s not a sin to have a short temper. When we start to get angry, we resist the temptation. If we lose our temper and act in anger, we repent.
But where did the short temper come from? What’s the source—and what can we do about it?
The retreat in California was led by Catholic layman Neal Lozano and based on his book Unbound: A Practical Guideto Deliverance. It says that we must, of course, repent of our sins. But we must also renounce the spirits—evil spirits, by definition—that lead us to sin.
Renouncing evil spirits is what many of us have been missing in our search for spiritual freedom.
As I said, having a short temper isn’t a sin. It’s only a sin when we fail to control it. But what if there’s a persistent spirit of anger that doesn’t go away even when we repent? And maybe there’s a spirit of pride that fuels our anger, or a spirit of fear. We don’t repent of those spirits, since in themselves they’re not sins unless we deliberately welcomed them—rather, we renounce them, in the name of Jesus.
Unbound presents five keys to praying for greater spiritual freedom. Renunciation is the one I found most remarkable. It’s like saying, “I’m done with that!” It means you are taking your life back, and you make no place for sin, deception, or the power of darkness.
And of course it’s straight out of the Bible, since St. Paul says “We have renounced secret and shameful ways” (2 Corinthians 4:2). And it’s entirely Catholic, since at Baptism we say “I renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises.”
“Renunciation,” Unbound says, “is a declaration that you no longer agree with the lies that have been buried in your heart.”
Of course there’s more to it than that. We don’t renounce in our own weak name; we renounce in the name of Jesus.
I got back from the retreat convinced that virtually all of us need to pray for greater spiritual freedom. There were 42 priests of every shape and size and age and attitude on the retreat, along with one bishop, and I think every one of us were deeply touched by the teaching of Unbound.
Still, I didn’t intend to say anything to you after my one-week experience. I wanted to think, and pray, and read some more. But the Holy Spirit seemed to think otherwise: last Sunday, a day after I go back, the Gospel was about Jesus casting out unclean spirits.
Then this Sunday we have Job. He’s not a sinner, but boy he is oppressed by evil. He’s listened to a lie that many of us have heard as well: “I’m never going to see good again.” In modern words, “life is a drag and it’s never going to get any better.”
And what happens in today’s Gospel? Jesus is casting out demons again. Many demons.
I’m not identifying the evil spirits we need to renounce with the demons that possess people; that’s a rare thing indeed. But the Gospel clearly shows that Jesus heals not only physical ailments but spiritual and psychological ones as well.
I’m still putting the pieces together from the retreat, but I hope to share more about Unbound ministry down the road and that we can talk about finding greater freedom and peace in Christ by prayer with the five keys of Unbound.
I’ve put a summary of the five keys in the bulletin this week so you can see for yourselves what they have to offer.