Wednesday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
you call your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of your
We ask this through our Lord Jesus
Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and
the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew
When Jesus reached the territory of the Gadarenes on the
other side, two demoniacs came towards him out of the tombs -- they were so
dangerously violent that nobody could use that path. Suddenly they shouted,
'What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before
Now some distance away there was a large herd of pigs
feeding, and the devils pleaded with Jesus, 'If you drive us out, send us into
the herd of pigs.'
And he said to them, 'Go then,' and they came out and made
for the pigs; and at that the whole herd charged down the cliff into the lake
and perished in the water. The herdsmen ran off and made for the city, where
they told the whole story, including what had happened to the demoniacs.
Suddenly the whole city set out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him they
implored him to leave their neighbourhood.
• Today’s Gospel stresses the
power of Jesus over the devil. In our text, the devil or the power of evil is
associated to three things: 1) To the cemetery, the place of the dead.
To death which kills life! 2) To the pig, that was considered an impure
animal. The impurity which separates from God! 3) With the sea, which
was considered like the symbol of chaos before creation? The
chaos which destroys nature. The Gospel of Mark, from which Matthew
takes his information, associates the power of evil to a fourth element which
is the word Legion, (Mc 5, 9), the name of the army of the Roman Empire.
The Empire oppressed and exploited the people. Thus, it
is understood that the victory of Jesus over the Devil had an enormous
importance for the life of the communities of the years 70’s, the time when
Matthew wrote his Gospel. The communities lived oppressed and marginalized,
because of the official ideology of the Roman Empire and of the Pharisees which
was renewed. The same significance and the same importance continue to be valid
• Matthew 8, 28: The force of
evil oppresses, ill-treats and alienates persons. This first verse
describes the situation of the people before the coming of Jesus. In
describing the behaviour of the two possessed persons, the Evangelist
associates the force of evil to the cemetery and to death. It is a mortal
power, without a goal, without direction, without control and a destructing
power, which causes everyone to fear. It deprives the persons from their
conscience, from self control and autonomy.
• Matthew 8, 29: Before the
simple presence of Jesus the force of evil breaks up and disintegrates. Here
is described the first contact between Jesus and the two possessed men. We see
that there is total disproportion. The power, that at first seemed to be so
strong, melts and disintegrates before Jesus. They shouted: “What do you
want with us, Son of God? Have you come to torture us before the time?” they
become aware that they are loosing their power.
• Matthew 8, 30-32: The power
of evil is impure and has no autonomy, nor consistency. The Devil does not
have power over his movements. It only obtains the power to enter into the
pigs with the permission of Jesus! Once they enter into the pigs, the whole
herd charged down the cliff into the sea and perished in the water. According
to the opinion of the people, the pig was a symbol of impurity which prevented
the human being to relate with God and of feeling accepted by him. The sea was
the symbol of the existing chaos before creation and which according to the
belief of that time, continued to threatened life. This episode of the pigs
which threw themselves into the sea is strange and difficult to understand. But
the message is very clear: before Jesus, the power of evil has no autonomy, no
consistency. Anyone who believes in Jesus has already conquered the power of evil
and should not fear!
• Matthew 8, 33-34: The
reaction of the people of that place. The herdsmen of the pigs went to the
city and told the story to the people, and they all set out to go and meet
Jesus. Mark says that they saw the “possessed” man sitting down, dressed and
with perfect judgment” (Mk 5, 15). But they remained without the pigs. This is
why they asked Jesus to leave from their neighbourhood. For them the pigs were
more important than the person who recovered his senses.
• The expulsion of the demons. At the time of Jesus, the words Devil or Satan were used to indicate
the power of evil which drew persons away from the right path. For example,
when Peter tried to deviate Jesus, he was Satan for Jesus (Mk 8, 33). Other
times, those same words were used to indicate the political power of the Roman Empire which oppressed and exploited people. For example, in the Apocalypse, the Roman Empire is identified with “Devil or Satan” (Ap 12, 9). While other times, people
used the same words to indicate the evils and the illnesses. It was spoken
about devil, dumb spirit, deaf spirit, impure or unclean spirit, etc. There
was great fear! In the time of Matthew, in the second half of the first
century, the fear of demons increased. Some religions, from the East diffused
worship toward the spirits. They taught that some of our mistaken gestures
could irritate the spirits, and these, in order to revenge, could prevent us
from having access to God and deprived us from divine benefits. For this
reason, through rites and writings, intense prayer and complicated ceremonies,
people sought to calm down these spirits or demons, in such a way that they
would not cause harm to life. These religions, instead of liberating people, nourished
fear and anguish. Now, one of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus was to
help people to liberate themselves from this fear. The coming of the Kingdom of God meant the coming of a stronger power. Jesus is “the strongest
man” who can conquer Satan, the power of evil, snatching away from its
hands, humanity imprisoned by fear (cf. Mk 3, 27). For this reason the Gospels
insist very much on the victory of Jesus over the power of evil, over the
devil, over Satan, over sin and over death. It was in order to encourage the
communities to overcome this fear of the devil! And today, who
can say: “I am completely free?” Nobody! Then, if I am not totally
free, there is some part in me which is possessed by other powers. How can these forces be cast away? The message of today’s Gospel
continues to be valid for us.
4) Personal questions
• What oppresses
and ill-treats people today? Why is it that today in certain places so much is
spoken about casting out the devil? Is it good to insist so much on the devil?
What do you think?
• Who can say that he/she is completely
free or liberated? Nobody! And then, we are all somewhat possessed by other
forces which occupy some space within us. What can we do to expel this power
from within us and from society?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
slow to anger, full of faithful love.
Yahweh is generous to
his tenderness embraces
all his creatures. (Ps 145,8-9)