"'Be prepared, watch, and pray, that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Matt. 26: 41
This exorcism movie is not necessarily about the theology of exorcisms.
When finding the struggle between God and the devil in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the temptation is to look at the "big stuff"... the exorcism rituals, the six demons inside the possessed girl, or the scenes of blood dripping from statues, crosses, or stain glass windows.
But in Emily Rose, the devil is truly in the details.
We are just as likely to see evil rear its ugly head in the unphotogenic courtroom scenes just as much as the supernatural, special-effects-laden flashbacks of this film. The craftiness of evil is that it's most disturbing where and when we least expect it.
In our own everyday lives, we don't encounter evil whenever scary music is playing or every time there's a violent thunderstorm. We live in the real world where evil can exist in the unlikeliest of situations, and often does.
In his ministry, Jesus scolded the devil in his many exorcisms as well as when Simon Peter was pushing him in a wrong direction ("Get behind me, Satan!" he tells Peter in Matt. 16:23).
Yes, evil is real. And that evil comes in many forms.
Sometimes it can be loud, messy, speak in ancient languages, and eat bugs off the floor. The six demons possessing Emily Rose in this movie reminds us of the Gerasene demonic who said to Christ, "Legion is my name, for there are many of us in here." (Mark 5:9). Possessed people are indeed real and that cannot be denied.
But at other times, though, evil can wear suits and ties, and attack a simple country priest for his beliefs or a defense attorney for sticking to her conscience. The lawyers reminded me of the lawyers of the law in the Gospels whom Jesus called "whitewashed coffins that appear beautiful on the outside but that are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth." (Matt. 23:27).
Both images of evil show up in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but unfortunately only one of those images will get all the press.
In the Catholic Church, since the time of the early Christians, we believe in the power of exorcisms to draw out demons from the possessed. Catholics also believe in the power of people to overcome the evil that exists in the everyday through actions of compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.
We may very well encounter both in our lives, and we must pray that we are prepared to "undergo the test" - either with prayers and rituals or with love and action.