February 1, 2010
Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
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. Mark 5:15-17
How many are my foes, LORD! How many rise against me!
How many say of me, "God will not save that one."
But you, LORD, are a shield around me; my glory, you keep my head high.
Whenever I cried out to the LORD, I was answered from the holy mountain.
Whenever I lay down and slept, the LORD preserved me to rise again. (Psalm 3:2-6)
Jesus is not having a very easy time being an itinerant preacher. No one seems to want to listen to him or follow his instructions except those possessed of evil.
In our recent Sunday readings from the Gospel of Luke, we have heard how Jesus was not doing a very convincing job preaching to his family, neighbors and friends in his hometown. Today, Mark relates a story about Jesus and his work in the pagan area of Gerasenes.
This is the first incident to be told after Jesus calmed the seas. Upon that action, the disciples closest to Jesus in the boat still were questioning the identity of their teacher. However, no sooner do they get off the boat, then do they encounter a man driven insane and locked away in the tombs away from the people. However, for this man – locked away with no external knowledge beforehand of Jesus, his work or his identity – knows exactly who has approached him.
The notes in the New American Bible explain that the “man was an outcast from society, dominated by unclean spirits, living among the tombs. The prostration before Jesus indicates Jesus' power over evil spirits.”
This man, however, knows immediately that Jesus the Messiah is there as do the evil spirits possessing his body. 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!") Mark 5:6-8
Again, Jesus with simple verbal commands, rids the man of the mental illness and disposes of the evil spirits by moving them into a heard of pigs who plunge off a cliff into the sea and drown.
How do you suppose the rest of the people react? Are they happy that there is no longer a madman in their midst whom they could not even restrain with chains? Hardly. They act no different than the family and friends who tried to stone him in the Sunday Gospel.
They do not understand what Jesus has done and would rather he get out of that region rather than remain and repeat his good works. So Jesus and the disciples shake the dust off of their feet and depart.
How often do we reject or ignore that which we do not understand? Sometimes science may be able to explain why something happens like a solar eclipse but there are some mysteries that science can not even prove (the creation of the universe, for example.) When a new theory goes against prevailing conventional wisdom, it also may be rejected before it is proven and accepted. The institutional church may even have a part in such rejection. Remember what happened when Galileo offered a theory that the earth revolved around the sun rather than vice versa.
Today, stories (and subsequent settlements) continue to come to light about how the church treated priests who committed sexual abuse in the past. The treatment methods and management practices in the past were ineffective and resulted in still more harm to children as abusers were moved from place to place. New methods have had to be used under greater transparency and with greater accountability.
What challenges you today? Is it something intellectual, theological, medical, economic or other? What can you do to better understand it, cope with it and deal with it? Jesus will not leave us alone to face these issues any more than he could turn his back on the man with the withered hand who wanted to be cured on the Sabbath or the man possessed of evil demons. As we learn in Psalm 3, “Safety comes from the LORD!”
Once we understand the issue with the help of the Lord, we than must accept the same challenge that Jesus laid out for the man formerly possessed. He was sent home to proclaim the Good News to those he knew. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he 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