And, they always seem to know precisely what he is capable of doing.
I can hear them saying, “Hey, he’s pretty good, isn’t he? He really knows what he’s talking about.” (Scripture tells us they said, “He speaks with authority”.)
A man in filthy tatters for clothing came walking up the middle aisle of the church.
He was smoking a cigarette.
Which was fine, I suppose, because we used a lot of incense.
I could smell him all the way from the pulpit – a powerfully pungent mixture of body odor and cigarettes and whiskey. He was sweaty and covered with soot. His face was puffy, his eyes two small slits under a dirty woolen cap, and he had huge bleeding knots on his eyebrows and chin.
He squinted his eyes and moved the greasy strands of hair from in front of his face as his body began to sway.
We gathered around him but it seemed that an invisible force-field-shield had come up between his body and the congregation. We were driven by our desire to help, but simultaneously repulsed by his foul smell and his filth.
He knelt down in front of the man as if he were one of the wise men, kneeling before the manger where the infant Jesus was laid. Carefully, and ever so gently, he cradled the man in his arms and laid his head in his lap.
I realized that this was a man whose illness drove him to insanity. Perhaps his illness made it impossible for him to work. Perhaps he got depressed. Perhaps his family couldn’t deal with him any more and sent him to live on the street. Perhaps he could not afford the medication he needed. Perhaps he medicated himself with alcohol.
Someone in the church started singing “Amazing Grace”.
Pretty soon, the whole church was filled with the harmony of that amazing song. We sang it as the ambulance arrived to take him to Mass General Hospital. We sang the last verse as Emmett took off his vestments, placed them on the back pew and climbed into the ambulance with the man to accompany him to the hospital.
And, they also saw the casting out of the demons of others as well as their own demons and we were all healed.