Am 5: 14-15. 21-24 / Ps 50: 7-13, 16-17
The whole town set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they implored him to leave their district.
Guard against earthly obsessions
Strive only for the things divine;
Desire for worldly possessions
Drives men to the level of swine.
When Jesus arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8: 28-34)
Jesus wasted no time in leaving that place because of the sheer ingratitude of the people in that region. Our Lord chose to go to other places where people would be more receptive to His works and to the Good News of salvation. Why was Jesus rejected by the Gadarenes? For one thing, He was a Jew, and the Gadarenes were Gentiles, as evidenced by the presence of swine. (Jews were forbidden by the law of Moses to eat pork). Moreover, it may be that the Gadarenes, who were predominantly pork eaters, were more agitated about the total loss of their source of meat than grateful for the release of the two men from the evil spirits. Imagine, not just the owner(s) of the herd of pigs, but the whole town went out to Jesus and pleaded with Him to leave their region!
The paradox in today’s Gospel passage is that while the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God, acknowledged His power and judgment over them, and immediately obeyed Him by releasing the two demoniacs from their possession, the people of Gadara, who had witnessed this victory over evil, chose to reject the sovereignty of God in Jesus Christ.
Thus, the most probable explanation for the rejection of Jesus in Gadara could be because the influence of the evil spirits had become so pervasive in that place that the salvation Jesus wanted to preach was no longer relevant to them. The influence of Satan can be so strong that the Word of God will only fall on deaf ears due to the people’s materialism, selfishness, or false doctrines.
None are in greater danger of demon possession today than those who indulge in spiritism and indulge in the occult. These people believe in channeling, and in communicating with the spirits of the dead. Despite numerous testimonies in Scriptures, many even deny the existence of devils and eternal damnation, having been deceived by Satan that God in His goodness would never allow the existence of hell. These people would be well advised to heed the wisdom of C. S. Lewis, who said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall in our thinking about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe in their existence but to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Believe that Satan exists, but never believe him, because he is the prince of lies.
Father God, deliver us from the influence of evil spirits; keep us always in Your light by the power of the Holy Spirit, and by the Word of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
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