A Reading from the Gospel According to Matthew (8:28-34)
When he came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?” Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea where they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Opening Prayer: O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of the light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen
This story has a surprising twist. The compassionate Jesus once again cures suffering people, this time by casting out evil spirits which had possessed them.
These people had been a cause of fear and trouble for the people of the neighborhood, yet, when the news of their healing breaks, what happens? Do the people flock to Jesus and thank him? No. They beg him to get out of their neighborhood!
What do you think of this reaction? Do you recognize any element of fear in your approach to Jesus? If so, does it prevent you from having a real encounter with him, as it did for the Gadarenes people?
Driving out demons was never straightforward, even for Jesus. Unlike in other, bigger, miracles, Jesus here encounters opposition and resistance, but at the end he prevails. Evil is a powerful force in our world, seemingly present everywhere, and is so difficult to eradicate.
This last weekend as I was about to take my dog out for her morning walk, I saw a man suffering from some type of mental illness wondering around the neighbor hood. It was obvious that he had been on the streets for some time as his reality was not the same as mine. This has almost been a daily witness, in our times, to the point where it is no longer ‘out’ of the ordinary. Is this the ‘new’ evils that, we as followers of Jesus, are challenged with in today’s society? In this Gospel reading from Matthew, we even see Jesus struggle with this powerful force. But as I look to Jesus who prevails against it, I ask for his help to never give up in my struggle against the evil around me.
This incident in this Gospel reading is a revelation of the compassion of Jesus for people like us and that He will do anything he can to free us from the demons, like fear, anxiety or resentment, which we have allowed to enslave us. By staying close to Jesus, we have nothing to fear from the devil or the world.
Here were two people, tormented and in bondage, courtesy of the devil. Their condition was serious, if not fatal, but isn’t this our reality anytime we allow sin into our life? When a soul drifts from God it grows distant, cold to God, and can even become aggressive out of fear or hatred. In their exchange with Jesus, the souls in this passage did all of the talking out of extreme agitation. Jesus simply looked at them unafraid and in control.
“Go then!” Jesus hadn’t spoken a word until now but the demoniacs knew he would expel them at some point because perfect good always prevails over evil. Jesus didn’t want them to be slaves to sin, nor does he want this for us. Jesus wants us to be free to truly follow him and love what is good, true, and beautiful as he created it. It’s our responsibility to surrender to God, confess, and make reparation whenever we realize we’ve given into sin.
If I am conscious of any such element of fear, perhaps I might go back over some recent gospel passages and reflect on the love and compassion, which Jesus showed to all who approached him for healing.
Lord Jesus, help me to never grow accustomed to sin in my life but to seek you with a sincere heart so that no contaminate of sin may mark my soul. Make me a more passionate lover of the salvation of souls so that I may call people to freedom from sin, with your strength and by your grace.