Wednesday in the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I have always felt that the part of the Gospel read at Mass today can be a little hard to understand. So, I wanted to post about it along with some things my priest said today in his homily.
When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”
Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding. The demons pleaded with him,“If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go then!” They came out and entered the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the seawhere they drowned. The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district (Matthew 8:28 - 34)
Through today's reading we realize that God allows the existence of devils because He uses them to bring about our holiness. Jesus Christ appeared to St. Catherine of Siena once and revealed to her this precise point. And, we see this through the Gospel today. First and foremost, Jesus Christ came to destroy sin, satan, and death. And, in today's Gospel reading we see how closely they are all related. First, where were the demoniacs at before they came to Jesus? They were in the tomb. Demons want to be around the dead because they are dead interiorly. Remember that when the devil fell from Heaven (Luke 10:18), nearly a third of the angels fell with him because they claimed to be equal to God. But, God did not destroy them and He never will. God is the God of the living. He never shall destroy a life. Some Christians claim that at the end of the world God will destroy the devil and Hell. The truth is that hell lasts forever just as Heaven is eternal.
But, what is truly astonishing in the Gospel is that these demons cry out: “What have you to do with us, Son of God?" The world did not know Jesus but these demons did! While the world crucified its Creator, they did not know what they were doing (Lk 23:34). But, the foulest demons of the world knew who He was, and they acknowledged Him. But, did that save them? NO. As St. James writes, "You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble" (James 2:19). We must do more than just believe in Jesus and say "I accept you, Lord". We must follow Him. We must bear Our Cross and follow after Our Lord and be the very holiest person that we can become (Mt 16:24). That is the way to Heaven - to follow after Our Lord. Beliving and not doing anything is not enough. We must believe and follow Him.
Through the reading we also see the power of Jesus over the demons. The demons can do nothing by their own power - they are part of creation and subject to the Lord. And, they ask to go into the swine. And, why is that important? We must remember that during this time the people of God were still in the Old Covenant; pork was unclean. Why? Because God had forbid it just like He forbid the apple in the Garden of Eden. And the swineherders were raising these pigs for consumption against the Commandments of God. So, Jesus Christ destroyed the pigs and drove away the demons. He freed the two men that were controlled by the demons, and now the town could go down that road. He used the demons to bring about holiness.
But, what did the town do - "they begged him to leave their district." Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, even after working this miracle, was asked to leave. And, so many of the people in our world say to Him: "Jesus, leave me know." Whether it's by what we say, watch on television, do with our friends, etc. We constantly tell Our Creator to just leave us alone. This is one of the saddest parts of the Gospel. The people of the town did not know Him. I ask you, do you know Him? And, more importantly, do you follow Him and carry your Cross?
Remember Our Lord's words: "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). He asked us to be perfect, and we can be perfect only through Him.
Image Source: Jesus Returning the Keys to St. Peter by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1820