Sun, 12 July 2020
Homily: The Demoniac at Gardenes
Introduction – the context of the story
Our Lord had just come across the water with his disciples. They had faced one kind of fear when they were on the water: a fear of the chaos of a storm. A great wind had come up while Jesus slept, and the disciples panicked. They woke Jesus up and he calmed the wind and rebuked them for their lack of faith.
When they got to the other side, they faced a new kind of fear: the fear of ghosts. The demons in this man at Gardenese had driven him into the graveyard to play on men’s superstitions about ghosts. In different parts of the Gospels, the disciples had shown themselves to be subject to this superstition. But the Lord identified the demoniac for what he was: not a ghost haunting the cemetery, but a man possessed by a legion of demons.
There are three main points I would have us learn here.
The first has to do with fear.
Fear is a strong instinct, and it is one that the powers of the air and marketers of this world like to use to manipulate us. Fear is a strong instinct, but for we who have given our lives to Christ and to His peace and to His power, it is not a rational one. Do we fear for our bodies? Why, when Our Lord Himself said that we should be more concerned with the state of our souls? When He has given us proof of the resurrection of His sons and daughters into new bodies in the world to come? Do we fear for the health of others? Why? Do we believe that we love them more than God does? There are dangers in this world and we need to be aware of them; but fear does not help us see and react to these dangers more effectively. Quite the opposite. The only laudable fear that Scripture speaks of is the fear of God – and this is the fear that brings His peace and power to bear in the most difficult of times. We should not fear the storms. God can bring calm to us even when they blow around us. We should not fear the ghosts. They are the illusions of the world created to scare and control us. We should not even fear the demons. They have no hold over the righteous and God has granted His Church His power over them. We should only fear the Lord and trust in His power and love.
The second has to do with how this man got there in the first place.
[How did that man end up running through the graveyard naked?] Temptations. Fascination. Obsession. Possession. Both good and bad thoughts can lead us down this sorrowful road. Example of a bad thought: remembrance of wrongs. Example of a good thought: the protection of children. Even the latter can become perverted so that the parent becomes a curse to himself, to his children, and to everyone around him (other examples: health, work, church/religion). In these times, it is important to realize that even thoughts that begin from a good place – a desire for another’s safety or a desire for justice – can lead us down this road if we lose perspective and grounding. The media is designed to feed this obsession. The real danger for us as Christians is that we are trained by our faith to care for the good and to hate all that is evil; without discernment and peace, our feelings can open us to the kind of manipulation that can lead to the kind of madness that will have us all running crazy through the graveyards.
The third and concluding point is to remind you that this is place where miracles happen.
This is where God works to bring peace to our souls, to our families, to our community, and to our world. This is where God roots out the demons and obsessions that have all but ruined our lives. This is where God brings joy to those who have oppressed by the wickedness of a fallen world. We have all seen it happen. We are here because we know this to be a place of peace and power.
Conclusion: Give your life to Christ
God will not force His miracles on us. Remember in the story that the demoniacs were not the only ones possessed: there was a whole town nearby that loved their swine and the money those pigs made them so much that they could neither rejoice in the healing of their brothers nor embrace the one God who brought him healing; much less see the demons in their own hearts and seek his mercy themselves. Instead, they ran Christ out of town.
We all need healing. We are all obsessed. We need to let go of [and renounce] “the devil and all his works, and all his worship, and all his angels, and all his pomp.”
We must unite ourselves completely to Christ; as St. Paul put it this morning, we need to confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead. This is the way out of fear, this is the way out of madness, this is the only Way to perfect peace and joy.