Monday, January 29, 2018
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
help us to love you with all our hearts
and to love all men as you love them.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
on God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 5, 1-20
They reached the territory of the Gerasenes on the other side of the lake, and when he disembarked, a man with an unclean spirit at once came out from the tombs towards him. The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him any more, even with a chain, because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him. All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, 'What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? In God's name do not torture me!' For Jesus had been saying to him, 'Come out of the man, unclean spirit.' Then he asked, 'What is your name?' He answered, 'My name is Legion, for there are many of us.' And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the district.
Now on the mountainside there was a great herd of pigs feeding, and the unclean spirits begged him, 'Send us to the pigs, let us go into them.' So he gave them leave. With that, the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs, and the herd of about two thousand pigs charged down the cliff into the lake, and there they were drowned.
The men looking after them ran off and told their story in the city and in the country round about; and the people came to see what had really happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there -- the man who had had the legion in him -- properly dressed and in his full senses, and they were afraid. And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs. Then they began to implore Jesus to leave their neighbourhood.
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him. Jesus would not let him but said to him, 'Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.' So the man went off and proceeded to proclaim in the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him. And everyone was amazed.
• In today’s Gospel, we meditate on a long text on the expulsion of a devil which was called Legion and which oppressed and tortured a person. Today there are many people who use the texts of the Gospel which speak of the expulsion of the devils or impure spirits in order to frighten others. This is a sin! Mark does the opposite. As we will see, he associates the action of power of evil to four things: a) With the cemetery, the place of the dead. Death which kills life! b) With the pork which was considered an unclean animal. The impurity which separates from God! c) With the sea, which was considered as a symbol of the chaos which existed before creation. Chaos which destroys nature . d) with the word Legion, a name given to the army of the Roman Empire. The empire which oppresses and exploits people. Well, Jesus overcomes the power of evil in these four points. The victory of Jesus had a very great outreach for the community of the years 70’s, the time in which Mark wrote his Gospel. These communities lived being persecuted by the Roman Legions, the ideology of which manipulated the popular beliefs concerning the devils in order to frighten people and to obtain submission from them.
• The power of evil oppresses, ill-treats and alienates persons. The initial verses describe the situation of the people before the arrival of Jesus. In the way of describing the behaviour of the possessed person, Mark associates the power of evil to the cemetery and to death. It is a power without any purpose, threatening, without control and destructor which makes everybody afraid. It deprives the person of conscience, of self control and of autonomy.
• In the presence of Jesus the power of evil disintegrates itself, and breaks into fragments. In the way of describing the first contact between Jesus and the possessed man, Mark stresses the total lack of proportion that exists! The power which at the beginning seemed to be very strong, melts and is broken, fragmented before Jesus. The man falls on his knees, asks not to be expelled from that district and finally says its name is Legion. With this name, Mark associates the power of evil with the political and military power of the Roman Empire which dominated the world through its Legions.
• The power of evil is impure and has no autonomy nor consistency. The devil has no power in its movements. He only manages to enter into the pigs with the permission of Jesus! Once he has entered into the pigs, they charged down the cliff into the sea. There were 2000! According to the people the pig was a symbol of impurity, the impurity which prevented the human being to enter into relationship with God and to feel accepted by Him. The sea was the symbol of chaos which existed before creation and which according to the belief of the time, threatened life. This episode of the pigs which threw themselves into the sea is strange and difficult to understand, but the message is sufficiently clear: before Jesus the power of evil has no autonomy nor consistency. The one who believes in Jesus has already overcome the power of evil and should not be afraid, should have no fear!
• The reaction of the people of the place. On the advice of the herdsmen who took care of the pigs, the people of the place ran to see the man who had been liberated from the power of evil, now “in his full senses”. But the Legion entered the pigs! And for this reason they ask Jesus to leave. For them, in fact, the pigs were more important than the human person who had just returned to be himself. The same thing happens today: the neo-liberal system gives very little importance to persons. What is important for it is gain!
• To announce the Good News means to announce “what the Lord has done for you!”. The man who was liberated wanted to “follow Jesus”, but Jesus tells him: “Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you”. Mark addressed this phrase of Jesus to the communities and to all of us. For the majority of us “to follow Jesus” means: “Go to your house, to your people, announce to them what the Lord has done for you!”
4) Personal questions
• Which point of this text pleased or struck you the most? Why?
• The man who was cured wanted to follow Jesus. But he should remain at home and tell everybody what Jesus has done for him. What has Jesus done for you which can be told to others?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh, what quantities of good things
you have in store for those who fear you,
and bestow on those who make you their refuge,
for all humanity to see. (Ps 31,19)