Monday 1/30/2017 – Driving out demons, despair

In today’s Gospel, we read Mark’s version of the healing of the man possessed by many demons and it is a story that should give anyone struggling with the “inner demons” of sin and temptation great hope – hope that even when it seems an impossible task, God can break into our life’s story and cleanse us.

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.

Demons love the tombs. They thrive on the decay and the stench of death. They run amok in a culture of death.

It is here that the man in our story dwelled because that is where he felt comfortable with his demons. How many of us “dwell among the tombs” of our own sin and death?

My mind flashes to those old scary movies that portrayed famous monsters living in the dank darkness, in the shadows of our lives. Vampires … afraid of the light of day, unable to survive the sun. Werewolves who were at their strongest in the middle of a dark night and a full moon.

Perhaps we choose to dwell in such places because we do not feel worthy to step into the light. Perhaps our inner demons possess us more than we believe.

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!”)

The demons inside our main character have no problem recognizing Jesus as the Son of God. So many failed to do the same both then … and now.

They not only recognized who He was, but they also knew instantly the power He possessed to overcome and destroy them.

Many today have no problem saying, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus.” But how many also recognize the power He has to fight our battles, answer our prayers and cleanse us of the demons that reside in our hearts? That’s a bigger thing to chew on.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t mess around. He drives the demons out of the man and into a herd of swine.

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.

Once again God uses water to cleanse the world of evil, like He did in the days of Noah and the exodus of Moses who led our people through the Red Sea and then watched the Egyptian armies drown when the sea covered them.

Water is God’s chosen agent of cleansing.

This is why we baptize with water. It’s why we make the sign of the cross after dipping our fingers in holy water. It’s why the Church’s exorcists use holy water when they do battle with today’s demons.

You want to rid yourself of your inner demons? Seek the waters of baptism and forgiveness.

Unfortunately, today’s Gospel ends on a somewhat sad note.

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.

They begged Jesus to leave. Thanks, but no thanks.

Why? Were they upset that their valuable swine had been driven off a cliff? More concern about money than the life of one man? Simply afraid of a positive change?

I’d guess there are times when many of us feel that way. Content to deal with our inner demons rather than seek to have them washed away in the holy waters. As long as we don’t rock the boat, maybe they won’t really hurt us, right? Lord, make me holy, but not just yet.

It’s understandable. Our demons can trick us into rationalizing our thoughts and behavior. They can convince us that there is no hope to survive. They can drag us down into their world of death and despair.

Into the tombs, where they dwell.

Today’s Gospel, however, speaks not of despair, but of hope. These demons, this Legion, was so powerful. There were so many. Not only the one victim, but the entire town lived in fear.

And then along comes Christ, like a sunbeam blasting through a window and slaying the vampire.

He will come to you, too. He promised. Just ask.

Knock.

Pray.

About the Author

Dan McFeely is a Carmel, Indiana, writer, communications business owner, book editor and a former professional journalist. Dan also works as an Adult Faith Formation Minister, currently serving as a spiritual director for the men’s and women’s Christ Renews His Parish program at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. He is a graduate of the Ecclesial Lay Ministry program offered by the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana and has studied theology at Marian University.

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9 Comments

  1. Dear Friend McFeely,
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts! “Water is God’s chosen agent of cleansing”. Hope and pray that such a cleansing will come in our lives too some day.
    God Bless and Thanks!
    priscilla

  2. Lovely one Dan. Hope for those who are lost. With Jesus Christ by your side, you have nothing to fear. Dare to ask Him for help and see the sunbeam entering your life and dispelling the darkness in you. God bless all

  3. Nice article Dan. It always made me wonder why the demons chose the pigs. Did they get killed after the herd die? etc, etc.

  4. Thank you Dan. What a tremendous reflection about Jesus’ love for us. It is certainly applicable to today’s times, maybe even more so. We are living in times where demons set up camp and are almost welcomed in our lives. I pray for the courage to ask Jesus to cleanse me of mine.

  5. Thanks Dan, well written. “Content to deal with our inner deamons” “Our demons can trick us into rationalize our thoughts and behavoirs”. I think I have a “clever demon” I need to shed. Your reflection helped me recognized my demon for what it is.

  6. Hey Dan,

    You asked a simple question concerning why the people of Gerasene asked Jesus to leave. I suppose if you read a bit further in Mark you’ll find the answer. Mk 8:29 Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
    One could assume that the people of Gerasene were Gentiles, since they were raising swine. They weren’t looking for a Messiah.
    So, who was Jesus to them? He was a Jew who some how cured a crazy man. A crazy man that, for the most part, stayed away from them. The cost to them was high, 2,000 swine. The benefit to them was what? And if you were raising cattle, would you want Jesus to stay?

    Thoughts?

    Mark

  7. Dan, thank you for these very eise words. Let’s not. Allow the demons to lead us into rationalizing everything. Let’s never forget that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” God bless!

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