“Ask a Priest: What Does It Mean to Be Cleansed by the Blood of Jesus?”

Q: What is meant by cleansing oneself with the blood of Jesus? What are miracles, and how does one recognize one? Is it true we each have a guardian angel? What is deliverance as well as salvation, plus what’s the difference? I’m still learning, so please advise as I want to grow. – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good that you are asking questions as you try to learn more about the Catholic faith. Learning about the faith is a lifelong task. Let me try to answer your questions succinctly.

On “cleansing oneself with the blood of Jesus”: This is a way of speaking of how we need the redemption that Jesus won us by his passion and death. Our Lord paid the price for our sins. The phrase echoes language from Revelation 7:14 — “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

On miracles and how to recognize them: The glossary of the Catechism defines a miracle as “A sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power. The miracles of Jesus were messianic signs of the presence of God’s kingdom.”

A person would need to use her wits to decide whether something is a miracle. An inexplicable cure of a loved one might be a miracle, or it might be a rare, naturally occurring phenomenon. For the Church to declare a miracle, it requires a high level of investigation by scientists or physicians and other experts.

As for guardian angels: Yes, each of us has one. A few numbers from the Catechism can put things in perspective:

334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.

335 In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the funeral liturgy’s In Paradisum deducant te angeli … [“May the angels lead you into Paradise …”]). Moreover, in the “Cherubic Hymn” of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).

336 From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.

On “deliverance” and salvation: An Internet source states, “In Christianity, deliverance ministry refers to the activity of cleansing a person of demons and evil spirits in order to address problems manifesting in their life as a result of the presence of said entities and the root causes of their authority to oppress the person.”

Deliverance is a term more commonly used in non-Catholic Christian circles. The Catholic Church could use the rite of exorcism to deal with demonic activity when it is a case of actual possession.

But demonic activity takes other forms as well, such as obsession, oppression, and infestation. Those are all extraordinary forms of diabolical interference in our lives. The most ordinary form is simple temptation.

To learn more about extraordinary demonic activity, you may want to read Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance, by Neal Lozano. A classic book on common demonic activity (temptation) is C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The final session of our own online course on spiritual maturity also deals with these issues. You can sign up for the course here: A Catholic Vision of Spiritual Maturity.

Salvation, as defined by the glossary of the Catechism, is “The forgiveness of sins and restoration of friendship with God, which can be done by God alone.”

In the definitive sense of the word, salvation means that we make it to heaven someday. We all need salvation, while the need for deliverance from demons is less universal.

To go deeper into the Catholic faith, you might consider the offerings at https://rcspirituality.org/study_circle_guide/. I hope some of this helps.

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