February 1, 2021 (readings)
- Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
- Maribeth Harper
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.
1. God Is Stronger: The humanity of the possessed man had been conquered by evil, which tortured him “night and day” and roamed the tombs unrestrained. But that evil prostrated itself before Our Lord and begged. We can draw great consolation from the image of Legion kneeling and pleading before the Lord. The Catechism teaches, “The power of Satan is … not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him (Romans 8:28).” (CCC 395.)
2. Jesus Came to Gentiles: The presence of swine indicated that Jesus had come to gentile territory. He exercised his ministry in the same way among the Gentiles as he had among the Jews—exorcising devils and restoring humanity. Not until St. Paul later preached and traveled did the early Church acknowledge that the Gospel message was for everyone, but here Jesus showed by his actions that he made no distinction among peoples. He is Lord for all! As his followers, we are called to see everyone as a brother or sister–Greek, Jew, American–everyone.
3. These Gentiles Failed: Wherever Jesus went, the individuals he encountered had to decide: “Is he the Son of God, a prophet, or an imposter?” The Gentiles from the Gerasenes also had to decide. Was this man who cast devils into a huge herd of swine who Legion said he was—or not? As these people approached Jesus, they saw the possessed man fully sane and restored. They witnessed the swine dead in the sea, yet they did not prostrate themselves before Jesus. They begged Jesus to leave. They failed to realize that “the kingdom of heaven” was at hand. Were they blinded by fear or angry at their financial losses? Either way, they rejected the graces God had in store for them, and instead chose to banish the Son of God from their midst.
Conversing with Christ: 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.”
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will say a decade of the rosary asking for forgiveness for my sins and the sins of the whole world. “For the sake of your sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world” (Divine Mercy Chaplet).
For Further Reflection: A Prayer to Defeat the Work of Satan
O Divine Eternal Father, in union with your Divine Son and the Holy Spirit, and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg you to destroy the power of your greatest enemy—the evil spirits. Cast them into the deepest recesses of hell and chain them there forever! Take possession of your kingdom which you have created and which is rightfully yours. Heavenly Father, give us the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I repeat this prayer out of pure love for you with every beat of my heart and with every breath I take. Amen.
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