An Encounter in the Gerasenes

Mark 5:1-20
2 Sm 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13/ Ps 3:2-7

He pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.
(Mark 5:10)

Avoid any form of obsession
It will lead us away from the Lord;
From the evil spirits’ possession,
We’re freed by the power of God’s Word.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with Him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:1-20)

Reflection

The territory of the Gerasenes (or “Gadarenes” in Matthew 8:28) was considered to be heathen territory, and lay in the easternmost shore of the lake of Galilee. The apostles had just experienced an awesome display of Jesus’ divine power in calming natural forces, such as the winds and turbulent waves as they were crossing over to the other side of the lake. This time they would witness His power over the evil supernatural forces, thus proving that He was really the Son of God.

What is the Word of God telling us in this long Gospel passage? First, that the reality of being possessed by the devil cannot be taken for granted. The legion of Satan had sovereignty over the Gerasenes simply because the people there had no faith. They did not want to have anything to do with Jesus even when our Lord had purged their land of evil spirits. If we are more obsessed with our material possessions than with the Good News of salvation, then we are more vulnerable to possession by evil spirits. But this Gospel passage also tells us about the mercy of God, which extends even to non-believers. Jesus took the trouble to visit that pagan territory to free them from Satan’s bondage even if He was not wanted there.

Finally, this episode reminds us that if we hold fast to the Word of God, to our faith, and to the teachings of our Church, we have the hope of the Holy Spirit countering the forces of Satan, who has already been defeated by our Lord Jesus Christ. In varying degrees, all of us are in bondage to something or other in this life. Our chains and shackles may be caused by our human frailty, by the lure of the world’s pleasures, or by direct demonic possession. We have seen raving lunatics, a few even running naked through the streets, and we say they are possessed by evil spirits. But in a lesser degree, we can also be under the influence of Satan, even if we appear to be respectable members of our church and community. Our addiction to power, wealth, alcohol, gambling, pornography, nicotine, or even to our hobbies, if they keep us away from Sunday mass are all a form of demonic possession. Jesus alone holds the power to save and free us from all our obsessions.

You alone, dear God can release us from the bondage of the world’s pleasures and addictions, which keep us away from You. Let Your Holy Spirit break these chains that imprison us, so that we may preach Your love and salvation to others. Amen.

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