The Gospel according to Mark (5:1-20)
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
Opening Prayer: Lord, please allow me to draw from this powerful story some inspiration for the day ahead. You are powerful and mighty, you conquer evil, you love me. Help me to trust in you.
Encountering Christ: This passage from Mark’s Gospel could be the scene from a horror movie. In truth, it’s the scene of an act of great love and mercy that reveals the power and authority of Jesus! It’s the story of a man with an unclean spirit, a demon. So, Jesus looks at the man with great love and compassion and expels the evil spirit, setting him free. This truly is an act of love. So, this is no longer a horror movie but it’s now a Hallmark movie! Personally, I have one problem with this scripture passage … Can you imagine how many BLT’s, pork chops and ribs were wasted!? Couldn’t this passage have used broccoli or Brussel sprouts instead of swine!?
Anyway, all joking aside, one question this clearly brings up is the role of the evil spirits in our world and their ability to control, manipulate or, at least, tempt us. They are powerful spiritual beings created by God with free will, and they exercised that free will to turn away from God. One of their primary duties, granted them at the moment of their creation, was to care for humanity. Those spirits who fell from grace by their pride and sin still retain their natural spiritual power. But because of their fall, they now only have hatred for mankind and seek to destroy us. This is real. And this is something we should be keenly aware of.
We all have stories of evil and it comes in every shape, size or form. Evil is around us every day, such as that temptation, enticement or that invitation to do wrong. It’s one thing that the act is done but it’s another to continuously do it and it becomes a way of life. It reminds me of stories that I hear from the men at Mary’s Village (Click for link), which is a transitional Living facility for homeless men. These men talk about their demons and the temptations that are still present in their lives, but they have the ability and strength to say NO. I will not commit to your request Satan! The men say that they now live in God’s house and they are protected by his goodness. They are now home with his protection, but they know the evil one is just outside that door enticing them to come back outside. Every day they prepare themselves for battle and for the next storm (challenge) in their day and pray for the ability to push away evil. I have to say these men struggle with this on a daily basis because they do have their own demons, vices or addictions and some of them have all three. So please pray for their Faith, that it will be strong and constant.
Therefore, the key is Faith. When we face a storm in life, we must have faith. But what does that mean? It means that we must know, with a deep certitude, that Jesus is in fact always with us. We must know, with a deep certitude, that if we place all our trust and hope in Him, He will never abandon us. We must know, with a deep certitude, that every storm will ultimately pass, and that peace and calm will ensue.
Facing the storms in life with faith is transforming. And often Jesus appears to be asleep for a reason. The reason is that He wants us to trust. Too often we turn our eyes to the storm itself and allow fear and anxiety to dominate our lives. But every storm we encounter is an opportunity to trust Him on a new and deeper level. If life were always easy and consoling, then we would have little reason to trust deeply. Therefore, every storm must be seen as an opportunity for tremendous grace as we place all our trust in Jesus, despite how things immediately appear.
But there is no reason to lose hope or to give in to fear. We need to be aware of their presence around us, their natural spiritual power and influence. We need to understand that they can and will try to wreak havoc in our lives. When we let fear weaken our faith, and lack trust in God’s almighty power, we slowly allow them to have more influence over us. But when we allow the grace and mercy of God to overshadow their evil influence, we hear Jesus rebuke them and order them to cease.
Closing Prayer: Lord, with hindsight it’s easy to call the Gentiles from the Gerasenes foolish for rejecting you. They failed to perceive your power over evil, your compassion for the sinner/possessed, your benevolence in coming to their territory—and so much more. I am just as blind, deaf, and dumb every time I choose to sin. Please, Lord, “lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.”
Action for the Day: Prepare, now, for the next such storm you may face and resolve to use that opportunity as a moment in which your faith is made manifest and becomes the stabilizing force of your life.