4TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
1st Reading: Heb 11:32-40
Brothers and sisters: What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at word’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth. Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.
Gospel: Mk 5:1-20
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.
They were seized with fear: Jesus restored a man who had been under demonic power for a long time. However, the intervention cost the village a herd of pigs. Did they ask Jesus to leave because they were afraid of his power or because they had lost a herd of pigs? It is easy to see them as ungrateful and condemn their request that Jesus leaves. This is because for us the loss of the pigs is insignificant. Put yourself in the shoes of a farmer who loses 200 pigs! Jesus is inviting us to see that since he had power to restore sanity and life, he too had power to restore the lost wealth. The farmers and villagers were blind to that. We too, in an attempt to save life, may lose other things. We must bear in mind that every life is worth saving and that God can repay for whatever we lose in the process. May the lives of St. Paul and many other saints serve as good examples.
Prayer – Lord Jesus, save us. Amen.
WELCOMING JESUS: David, the mighty king is suffering in pain seeing his son turn against him. He is losing it. His soverignty is limited. It is unfortunate that the children of Israel have turned their loyalty to an impostor. Like in the Psalm, David has to turn to God for salvation. Contrary to the powerlessness of David, Jesus scares away Legions of evil spirits. A legion at full strength consisted of about between 3,600-5,000 soldiers. While in David we see human limiation, in Jesus we see sovereignty. However, a great lesson from david is to submit fully to the divine will. This is a call to each one of us today. Taking refuge to Jesus, grants us security and safety. Let us pray to the Lord all the time so that he does not depart from our aboard. Rather, may jesus make an aboard in our hearts.
Prayer: O Lord, grant that we may treasure your presence amidst us, in the Eucharist, in our brothers and sisters.
POWER OF GOD’S WORD: Casting away evil is one of the signs Jesus uses to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God (Mt 12:28). This gospel passage explains the contrast between the power of evil and the power of the Word of God. While evil enslaves the man, the Word of God frees him from evil. While the evil power magnifies its power in various forms to create a false picture of reality, Jesus utters three authoritative statements to expel it from that poor man. No human being is exempted from the mystery of evil. We are born with it (Ps 51:5). We want to do good works, but we are trapped by the evil (Rm 7:21). We need divine assistance to withstand evil. This is why Jesus not only taught his disciples to pray for deliverance from evil (Mt 6:13), but he himself prayed to his Father to save them from evil (Jn 17:15). While Jesus prays for our freedom from evil, he shows us the authoritative power his words over the evil: “Unclean spirit, come out him.” Our call for the Kingdom of God to fight against the evil has an invitation of welcoming the Word to our inner self and pondering its presence (Eph 6:17).
A PLUNGE FROM THE PEAK: At the sight of God’s anointed, the demons have to bow to the superior power of Jesus. The devil who kept the man under shackles and chains faces unbearable heat at the presence of Jesus. The legion is overcome and can only request to be sent to the pigs. The pigs symbolize sin and dirt. Their sad ending is a symbol of the ending of anyone that spends time with and in evil. True, to the owners of the animals, it is a huge loss, yet looking at the man freed from the bondage of the devil, nothing equals a lost human life. Jesus tells him, “Go home to your people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” Mk 5:19. Jesus urges him to start a new auspicious journey of someone who is reborn. Do we experience such re-birth when we encounter Jesus in the Sacraments? We are to work like yeast among our people sowing the seeds of hope. May our personal stories of being touched and healed by the Lord infuse courage in several who are under the grip of the evil forces.