The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain the story of the demoniac from the territory in northern Israel called the land of the Gerasenes. They describe the fact that the demons had united within this man for a specific purpose – to torment this poor sinner and to terrorize the countryside with demonic power so concentrated – that the evil was unable to be controlled.
Unclean spirits fueled the demoniac’s actions; and as Jesus steps out of the boat onto the shore the demoniac immediately confronts Jesus and the demons within him beg to be left alone.
Jesus enters into dialogue with the possessed man. He asks him his name, and the demons respond, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” The disciples, hearing this response would have been horrified because a legion, at that time, was no small force – in the Roman army a legion encompassed 6,000 soldiers.
What’s left of the possessed man’s free will had run toward the Lord – and the psalmist tells us to do the same because they both realize who God is, the magnitude of His power and mercy, and that true healing, security, and protection from evil can only be found under His protection.
Psalm 91 alludes to this, and uses military language to express its message as it says: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but [evil] will not come near you… Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation.”
Perhaps we are afraid to pay the price of liberation from the power of evil in our lives. Yet, what is the cost to us? Is it the cost of being healed of our sins? The true cost was paid by Jesus Christ in His suffering and death upon the Cross.
The cost, having been paid by the Son, provides the opportunity for the Father and the Holy Spirit to freely give us the grace that Christ has merited for us. The only thing that Jesus requests of the healed demoniac is that he go home and give witness. Jesus says, “Go home to your friends, and [and in thanks] tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”
The only price that needs to be paid is the price of thankful witness – the price of unselfconsciously showing others that we have turned away from evil – and that God has changed our lives through the power of His grace and mercy.
The freed and healed demoniac was asked to evangelize his friends, and we, are asked to do the same. Interestingly, the territory of the Ten Cities – the Decapolis – which were primarily Greek and pagan territories was an extraordinarily difficult missionary area. The now healed man was asked to go into that territory – to those Ten Cities –and preach to them of his healing and deliverance. He was, in no uncertain terms, a missionary – a missionary to the Gentile people of the Decapolis. It appears that he was successful, because, Mark (in his Gospel’s 7th chapter, vs. 31ff) speaks of the hopeful crowds from the Ten Cities bringing Jesus another man to be healed.
So what is the final message of this Gospel for us today? It may be that even though, thank God, we may not be possessed by one or thousands of demons, we are still tempted, we fall, and we do sin.
So we are always in need of God’s mercy – and after repenting of our sins and receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy, and healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we need to give thanks to the Lord; and like the healed demoniac, share the story of our spiritual journey, healing, and God’s love for us with all those who will listen.
Copyright © 2012 Deacon Paul O. Iacono All Rights Reserved