Mark 5: 1-20
It is quite normal to be frightened by what we don’t understand.
We are introduced in today’s gospel to a man whose name we are never told. He is a demoniac – possessed by demons, surrounded by death, living in a cemetery. This was a man to be feared.
When he speaks, it is not himself but an unclean or evil spirit that speaks, and that spirit is afraid of Jesus. Immediately Jesus exerts his authority over the spirit by asking its name and being told ‘Legion’ – no doubt a reference to the oppressive Roman force in Galilee. The spirit is not a single spirit, but ‘many’ and although it would seem to us today an inhumane thing to cast those spirits into a nearby herd (or legion) of pigs, in the telling of the story, it is made clear how evil the spirits are. They invade the most hated animal in Israel and are destroyed with them.
With the evil spirits gone, the man is calm, and his mind is restored. In contrast, the people from the town are frightened by Jesus’ powers, and they want him gone. The man is different. He wants to go with Jesus. Instead, he is commissioned by Jesus to tell of God’s mercy among his family and friends, and they marvelled at what he told them. From demoniac to missionary!
It was a stunning and wonderful healing, but the people who didn’t understand were frightened. The herdsmen saw the healing and its effects, but they chased Jesus away because they were frightened by what they did not understand.
When we don’t understand, let us avoid fear because that fear might lead us to ask Jesus to leave us. Let’s accept our own healing like the former demoniac and accept how Jesus can use us to witness and share his message among our family and friends. Do not be afraid.
Brian Traynor CP has been involved in faith formation for many years especially in the form of parish missions and through the Passionist Family Group Movement. Brian is a member of the Passionist community at Holy Cross, Templestowe.