"They begged Jesus to leave their district." (Mt. 8:34; cf also Mk 5: 17)
I've always been saddened at the Gospel account when Jesus was asked to leave the territory of the Gadarenes. In the light of our Supreme Court's redefinition of marriage, reading this passage at Mass again this past week grieved me more than ever. The Gospel tells us that Jesus came to two demoniacs, who had been so savage that no one could travel near them, and freed them from the power of Satan. And in return for this kindness, the people of the area begged Him to leave!
If you remember, the demons were sent into a herd of swine, which rushed off a steep bank into the sea, causing the pigs to drown. After witnessing these manifestations of God's power, the people of the district (and the owners of the pigs) begged Jesus to leave them!
I can't help but liken the Gardarenes to many in our nation and in the world today who blatantly live as if God does not exist. Or if they accept His existence, they still reject His Word, proclaiming it to be untrue or irrelevant in their lives; and thus, they cast Him far from them. And greviously, many not merely beg Him to leave-- but arrogantly and proudly reject Him and His Truth as outdated rubbish.
We, as the Gadarenes before us, are choosing to live without Jesus -- to live outside of His laws. In effect, we are saying we want nothing to do with Jesus as we reject the only One who can free and save us!
How tragic so few know Jesus -- the One who rent the heavens and came down to earth in utmost love, Who came to bear our sins, burdens and punishments so that we might not only live, but live to the Full -- ABUNDANTLY -- on earth and in eternity! Jesus truly lived! His life is a fact that history upholds! Our faith is real. Jesus is truly God enfleshed! He is Infinite Power and Mercy and the greatest Love each of us will ever know! He not only saved us, but showed us how to live in harmony with our nature, for we are not mere animals, but human persons made in the image and likeness of God, in Whom, we were created! Therefore, when we follow Christ, we are most truly ourselves. In contrast, when we sin, we are living at odds against ourselves -- we are living against our own nature! We are living against how were made.
Thus, we must understand that the commandments are not arbitrary rules of a domineering and oppressive God, seeking to destroy any fun we might have. Rather they are the sure means to bring us joy and peace in the depths of our being. Likewise, to the extent that those around us also adhere to the Word of God, is the extent that this peace and joy will exist in our world around us.
"Christian faith and ethics do not wish to stifle love but to make it healthy, strong and truly free; This is the exact meaning of the Ten Commandments, which are not a series of "noes" but a great "yes" to Love and to Life." - Pope Benedict XVI
Therefore, the true crisis of our times in not a crisis of legislation or of laws and politics, but it is a crisis of faith. It is a crisis of human persons not recognizing their dignity and their immortal nature, and thus, living less than the Truth about themselves, which is revealed to us in Christ.
"The renewal of faith will always be the best way to lead others to the Truth that is Christ."- Saint Pope John Paul II
The Truth is:
We were made by Divine LOVE to LOVE! When we disregard His Laws, we choose to no longer love. We choose to harm ourselves and others --- and in essence, to beg Jesus, Who is our only HOPE, our Refuge and the only Way to the Father, to leave us ---so we can live as we wish --without Him.
This article is not meant to curse our lot, our times or our nation -- but it is meant to inspire us to become ever more firm in our faith and in our hope in God! Jesus can change the course of world events in an instant if He chooses. We must cling to this KNOWLEDGE and this FAITH and ask for the grace to grow ever deeper in faith and in love of Him so that our lives might reflect the Truth of His Life, and His glory, goodness and love to others. So, that we become instruments of His Love and Truth to all those who have not yet come to know the love of God!
"All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" that He envisioned for us when He formed us in our mothers' wombs, so this article is not meant as a judgment against others. Rather, it is a call to the Truth and Love of Christ.
Satan is a master deceiver. Satan is the one who tells us to never look past our earthly circumstances -- our livelihood (pigs) -- and tells us that our emotions, and our own thoughts and judgments transcend God's commands. Yet this understanding is faulty and is a great lie, as Augustine so beautifully articulated after finally letting go of "his wants and desires" to live as God intended:
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."
Satan is the liar who tempts us to beg Jesus to leave us, so that we wander aimlessly without Love, Truth, Hope, guidance or the purpose that so deeply fulfills us.
"It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you." - Saint Pope John Paul II
So we must remember that:
"Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens." Eph 6:12
So what are we to do in this fight against evil?
St. Paul tells us in the remaining verses of the same passage:
"Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power [let us continually draw strength from Him Who is with us always – ALIVE in the Eucharist, in the Mass, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in the Church...]. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.... that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, [know deeply through daily prayer the Word of God and the teachings of His Body on earth - the Church] clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, [our goodness and faithfulness to Jesus' teachings will guard and protect our hearts] and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace [ready to go wherever God sends us, and to whomever He sends us to share His Good News and the peace that surpasses our understanding]. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one [our faith and trust in Jesus is our shield against Satan's lies, temptations and attacks]. And take the helmet of salvation [know and fill our minds with Jesus. Remembering His passion, death and resurrection that saves us from the eternal death that our sins deserve in order to lead us to eternal joy and union with God that is beyond our capacity to understand] and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God [live united to the Holy Spirit's power, by steeping ourselves in the living Word of God]. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit [pray always, keeping our minds and hearts on Christ, with, in and through the power of the Holy Spirit]. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must [pray for ourselves and for one another so that we may be steadfast in faith and that God may be able to speak the truth in love through us]." Gal 6:10-20 (emphasis mine).
So, let us stand together as a people of God in support of one another, ever ready to give an account of our hope in Christ so as to lead others to Him -- knowing that God does not want us to simply curse the evil in our world, but rather, through deep prayer and Communion with Him, He wants us to be His Light shining in a world of ever-increasing darkness.
Let us pray....
Dear Jesus, help us to stand fast in faith and take seriously the Words You gave us before You ascended into Heaven:
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Mt 28: 18-20.
Help us to share the Good News of Your Life through our lives of love, even if it means that we will be persecuted for sharing this Truth. As St. Peter tells us:
But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. (1 Pet 3: 14-16).
Thank You, Jesus, for always being with us!
Jesus, we trust in You!
Mary, we entrust our world and ourselves into your care, as the Father entrusted His Son to you. Through your prayers and by the power of the Holy Spirit, may we, and our children and families, be formed into a likeness of your Son -- formed deeply in the love of God, and in His power and wisdom and strength that is found so richly in our Church -- so that we may be loving, effective and fearless lights of Christ in this present darkness.
© Janet Moore 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Art: "Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 191" by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld - Die Bibel in Bildern. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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