Today’s Gospel : Mark 5:1-20 Jesus and the Healing of the Garasene Demoniac
After reading today’s gospel, I feel a little light entered my struggling mind. I tend to perseverate on thinking things through and self-examination. A little examining can be good as in a nightly examen, as in the St Ignatius fashion. But a lot of self-examination in an endless loop can be harmful to self. Isaiah said it well (Is 59:7-8): Their thoughts are destructive thoughts, plunder and ruin are on their highways. The way of peace they know not, and there is nothing that is right in their paths; Their ways they have made crooked, whoever treads them knows no peace.” I think this may be, in the end, selfish and prideful to spend so much time looking at yourself, so I’m always looking for ways to end my mind looping and get on with life for Christ. That’s why today the story of Jesus healing the Garasene Demoniac is so hopeful , a story of recovery from a seemingly impossible situation. Here’s a brief paraphrase of this poor man’s problem:
A demoniac in the pagan territory on the “other side of the sea” immediately met Jesus as he stepped out of the boat. The haunted man dwelt among tombs, a lonely and isolated place, unrestrained by others. Those others had tried to shackle him with chains and handcuffs, yet the haunted man “pulled the chains apart and smashed the shackles,” so strong was the effects of the unclean spirits. No human restraint could hold him. In his freedom he ran around his lonely tombs and hills, crying out and bruising himself with stones.
In this I see a reflection of my inner turmoil, the lost and lonely state of mind I’ve been in. Not that I feel possessed by demons, but that that shackle and bondage of my life I’ve been trying to break or understand, leaves me running around crying and continually bruising myself with rocks of self recriminations, doubt, guilt and sin(multiple recriminations feel “Legion,” the name of the demon inside haunted man). I try to resolve these meanderings of the lonely hills and tombs by my own power (or with advice of spouse or friend) but they seem to keep going, no human power is going to resolve it.
Catching sight of Jesus from far away, the demoniac runs up to Jesus, bowed down and “shouted at the top of his voice,” “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!”
Then out of the sea (the ancient place of primordial chaos) arrives my savior, Jesus, who comes to my lonely and pagan territory within my unsettled mind. I suppose that being a child of God, he’s always there but I just have too many clouds in my interior castle to really see him or feel his presence. This haunted man recognizes Jesus immediately, hurriedly approached him and prostrated himself before Jesus…maybe I need to do more of this? Recognizing a power greater than self perhaps will help me recover? (I think this is the first step in the AA process! Another avenue for healing!) Jesus came to this man, already calling for the demon to come out of him. The man didn’t first ask for healing. Certainly, Jesus was aware of this man’s needs and provided for his care and healing as he came upon the demoniac in the lonely tombs of his life. What an awesome idea, that the Lord knows us and wants us well even before we ask it of him. And Jesus can heal us even when we ourselves are stuck in the mind loop of self recriminations and can’t break out (or don’t want to break out??!)
The story continues with Jesus sending the unclean spirits into the swine herds in the area, then the pigs run off the cliff into the sea, back to the place of chaos. As a result, the man regained his right mind and is clothed! How astounding a healing as indicated by the reaction of the town’s people: fear! I suppose an observer might be brought to fear, given that a greater power had to overcome unclean spirits whose effects were so terrible and hopeless on the man. But as we know Jesus, who came with love, compassion and pity for us poor human beings, he came not for destruction but for good. Jesus’ own life story demonstrated the best practice for battling temptations of the devil: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. ( Mt 4:4) So here are a few helpful words of God from the Prophets which are so comforting:
Jer 30:17 For I will restore you to health; of your wounds I will heal you, says the Lord.
Jer31:25 For I will refresh the weary soul; every soul that languishes I will replenish.
Is 40: 28-31 Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
Is 44:18-19 Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new!
Is 44:25 It is I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses, your sins I remember no more.
Is 58:15 For thus says he who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One: On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed.
The story of the Garesene Demoniac ends with Jesus sending the healed man out on a mission, proclaiming what the mercy of the Lord has done. Jesus heals us for mission, which is simply to proclaim his glorious love to others, to witness to his strength and power over seeming impossible situations and states of mind, and to give hope to others on this journey of life, using God’s own words of wisdom. In conclusion, I think the best way to put on the mind of Christ and release our minds from the broken record inside our own mind is to read the word of God. Read it for healing, look up those passages which bring you healing and comfort, for that is what God wishes for us: Peace, love and healing so that we can continue to praise him for this glorious salvation and share his love with others!