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, 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!” He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. 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. 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. As he 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.(Mark 5: 1-20)
Today’s Gospel is vivid in imagery. Imagery that forces us to peer inside our very selves and ask the questions we usually avoid.
Jesus comes to the Gadarenes in love. He comes to heal, to save, to liberate. As he gets out of the boat, he is confronted by a shackled man, possessed by demons. The only way the citizens knew what to do with him was to keep him shackled and imprisoned in himself. He was more restricted and isolated because of it and rather than offer help, they drove him further into his dilemma.
The man cries out a refrain we hear around us often: “Why did God do this?’ We hear that refrain because we want to affix the blame elsewhere. Affix the blame elsewhere. Think about that for a moment.
From my perspective, we all are shackled. Some less, some more. Some were placed on us in our childhood and we never let them go. Some were placed on us by ourselves arising from situations where we felt we did not “live up.” Some were placed on us by the cruelty of another. Some were placed on us by society such as systemic racism. Some were placed on us by religion when we felt we were “unworthy” of God’s love. And some we place because the culture is not heading in the direction we want or believe it should.
The links seem to grow stronger the more they are in place. The weight gets heavier the older we grow. But rather than peer deeply into ourselves, we blame another. It’s easier that way because we can push away it away. Or so we think. But we can’t.
To break free of our shackles, we need to confront their source — call out their source – call out as in aloud. With each cry, we need to acknowledge that we can’t do it totally on our own. We need to ask for the love of Jesus Christ to come to our aid.
The liberating word from Christ neither drives us back into ourselves, chaining us in the tombs with provincialism and archaic mind-sets, nor does it fetter us with “Mickey Mouse” morality, hoping to protect us from the light of truth. Rather, liberation strips these chains from our ankles and wrists, drives the demons out, and makes us free to understand what Augustine meant when he said: “Love God and do as you please.”
You see if we truly love God. If we really believe that we are centered on Christ, we don’t allow shackles to be placed on us. Society is as it is. But if we love God, we can find our way through it by centering on His love – not through anger, not through acts of hate. People are as they are. But if we love God, we can find a way to live with them and help them see the light. If we truly love God, no religious denomination can put blinders on us. Faith is a divine gift but the reality is that the institutions responsible for helping lead us to faith are managed by people. We, by our humanity, are flawed. We must always seek the light and live in His light. His word and His sacraments are divine.
The liberating word from Christ is when one hears for the first time that in the midst of his/her exposure and the torment of this embarrassment, he/she is worthy of being loved.
“Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, O Lamb of God, I come.”
Worthy of being loved first and then accepting His love as the liberation from our shackles.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, unbind me that I may love you wholly and walk in the freedom of your way of life and holiness. May there be nothing which keeps me from the joy of living in your presence.”
God’s word reminds us that no destructive force can keep anyone from the peace and safety which God offers to those who seek his help.” A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation.” (Psalm 91:7,9).