If I was a priest (not that I can be one or want to be one, believe me), this is what I would have preached on today.
The Gospel reading was that story about Jesus curing the demoniac and subsequently sending the demons into a herd of pigs — or as one of my favorite priests referred to it, the story of the deviled hams.
Two things struck me today during the Gospel reading. (found here.)
Once- the people of the village (which we know was Gentile, since there were pigs around) beg Jesus to leave them after He performs His miracle. It seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? This wonder worker comes along and frees this poor man from the demons that were endangering his life and the lives of everyone around him… and you beg the wonder worker to leave?
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.
It seems that the way the man acted while possessed should have seized them with fear, not the sight of a clothed man sitting quietly.
But the people were afraid of what Jesus might do to them, I suppose. They were afraid of the unknown. Maybe the possessed man’s behavior had ceased to frighten them because they were used to it. But now?
Jesus must leave, because He might do or say something that would change their lives. He threatens the comfort and complacency of their lives.
Never mind that what He might say or might do would perhaps change their lives for the better. After all, look at what He did for the man possessed. He gave that man his entire life back. He could do the same for them.
But that was a chance they would not take. No, He might ask too much of them. Better to live in ignorance than to live with responsiblity.
So they beg Him to leave.
How often do we do the same?
The other thing that leaped out at me was that the demoniac, now demon-less, begged Jesus to let him come along when Jesus left. But Jesus tells him to stay with his family.
As [Jesus] 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.
He pleaded “to remain with him” — a similar phrase as is mentioned with the calling of the disciples a few chapters earlier — he called them to “be with him” (Mk 3:14).
This man wants to be with Him — but He sends him on a different mission. We are all called to preach in different ways and to different people. Some He calls directly for Himself (priests, nuns, consecrated people). Others He calls to remain in the world and preach the Gospel to their spouses, their children, their in-laws, their co-workers. Unlike the man in Matthew 8:22, who is chastised for putting off Jesus’ call in order to serve his family, this man is told to remain with his family.
Where does the Gospel need to be preached in your world today? Are you ready to respond to His call — even if it’s not the call you wanted? Even if it’s a call that will change your life or the lives around you?