The Gospels are a school in themselves that can teach us, heal us, and transform our lives. All the Gospels are multi layered with different things to learn each time we cast our eyes upon the same text. The story of the Gerasene demoniac is a good example (Mk 5: 1-20) of that. At first our attention is drawn to the “crazy person” in the story, but there’s so much more.
Imagine you were there in the region of the Decapolis, in a pagan town and the newest, hottest, most popular healer has just shown up. The day is steamy, the cemetery creepy, the demoniac is being “really crazy” and the howls and sounds from the grave yard are particularly shrill. Your common sense tells you to run, but your curiosity begs you to stay and get a glimpse of the “new guy” that everyone’s been talking about. The demoniac actually has the nerve to speak to the healer. He actually sounds kind of sane. With an odd opening comment he begs to know what Jesus wants with him! The demoniac actually calls him: “Son of God”. Does the crazy know more than all the sane people of the town do? Jesus is unrelenting in his prayer of exorcism and actually dialogs with the devils possessing the man. Scary, the demoniac tells that there are “Legion” in him. The situation, sound, smell, sight, stirred up dust in the air, all lend to pure confusion.
Next, the remarkable occurs. The devils give in and express their subordination. They beg not to be exiled and plead a new home in a herd of nearby swine. Jesus agrees and then lets chaos reign as the pigs, in their disharmony, cast themselves over a cliff. If you were the one observing, what would you be thinking right at this moment?
We tend to be too sanitized and comfortable as we hear the Gospel every week. Sometimes we think that God should be neat, tidy and trouble free. We must remember that stories like the Gerasene Demoniac were re-told by people who were really there. The focus of this particular story is not the fact that Jesus cured a crazy man. Rather, that he was in command of the evil all along. We also note that evil had to “ask permission” in order to continue to function. This is a story filled with truth about evil in the world and how to deal with it. The sad part of this tale is the fact that the villagers were so shocked at the demise of the pigs that they begged Jesus to get out and not come back. Imagine that, people in the middle of a miracle who did not want the healing power of God. They decided it was all too messy. That wouldn’t be too personal would it? Evil abounds when we do nothing to take advantage of the good. Don’t mistake a situation of havoc for the absence of God.
The deepest, strongest faith is that which is impossible to perceive with the senses. In some situations, our senses can even lie to us. As the horrors of Holy Week approach take a close look at your own level of faith. Does your faith give you the ability to remain focused on God in the middle of a disaster or do you tend to throw up your hands and admit defeat when things are not going your way? The good is always present. Deepen your prayer and faith life and make sure that the demons in your life have to ask “permission” to proceed! After that, the choice is yours.