January 31st, 2022

The Gospel according to Mark (Mk 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.

Reflection: This reminds me of a resident at Mary’s Village (let’s call him Tom). Tom was about 35 years old when he came to us from being homeless and being incarcerated for 10-15 years. Tom has no family that he would speak of, and he was mentally insecure because he would always talk to himself and had this evil giggle amongst other things. Tom scared many of the other residents, especially the men in his dorm room, as well as my staff, therefore, they wanted to get rid of him. There was an incident one evening and it was the first week he arrived. He was walking around in a stealth-like manner after midnight and was shadowing one of the night staff members who wasn’t aware of it until he saw him and scared the “BeGEEZERS” out of him. This really shook up that staff member to no end and He, amongst others, begged me to get rid of him. But something told me (Holy Spirit) to stick with Tom and show him my friendship, love and compassion and this man will be OK. 

Tom didn’t graduate from high school, so my first challenge for him was to start studying for his GED. He reluctantly said yes and he struggled greatly with it. Just last month, I saw Tom and he approached me with this huge smile and said that he passed his GED. All I could do was embrace him and it made me weep. Today, I call Tom a “friend” and he is one of the mentors at Mary’s Village.

In today’s Gospel, it’s clear that this man was wild, out of his mind, and fully under the control of these demons.  One interesting thing to note in this story is that, when the townspeople came out and saw this man sitting there “in his right mind,” they were shocked and “seized with fear.”  They did not know what to think about this situation.  Why is that?

Perhaps there are several reasons.  Let’s look at one of them.  This young man was so dysfunctional, being possessed by a legion of demons, that the townspeople had written him off.  They gave up on him and most likely wanted nothing to do with him.  They were afraid of him.  But when they saw this man completely transformed, sitting there looking normal and rational, the people didn’t know what to think.  They were shocked.  And their shock took on a form of fear in that they were afraid of what they did not understand.

This reveals something interesting to us.  It reveals that, if we fail to understand the power of God, we will find ourselves fearful of His power when confronted by it.  The townspeople should have been filled with great joy and excitement at the total transformation of this man.  However, instead of great joy and excitement, they were fearful.  They were fearful because they did not understand God’s almighty power.

Action of the Day: Let’s give the Tom’s in our lives a chance by showing them your love and compassion. They may not want it but it’s what Jesus would do.

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