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Faith Born of Freedom Multiplies Believers
Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
They 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 he 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.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I encounter your merciful love which engenders a living faith and genuine discipleship.
- Knowing versus Living Faith: Beyond knowing, a living faith in Jesus Christ is an entirely new level. Look at the different responses in this Gospel. The demons knew who Jesus was and the power that he possessed. Yet they only asked him to cast them into the swine. The people who witnessed the miracle saw his power, yet they chose the path of fear versus freedom in Christ. Rather than invite him into their dwellings with gratitude, they begged him to leave. Contrast their response to the Gerasene demoniac, the least likely candidate for freedom. His encounter with Jesus’s mercy and saving power set him free to experience a living faith. Come Holy Spirit, and help me encounter Jesus’s merciful love. Cast out any fear that obstructs the growth of living faith in Jesus.
- Gratitude for Universal Salvation: Jesus testified that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24), yet he arrived in pagan territory to save a lost Gentile. Since the beginning of creation God has desired that all men be saved (2 Timothy 4:2). God reveals his plan through history, nurturing a people he calls his own, to preserve faith in the one true God. Through them, the Messiah would be born into the world and a universal salvation would be won by his Death and Resurrection. God is faithful to his promise and indicates his original intention through the miracle in this passage. Thank you, God, for your fidelity to your promise. I receive the fruits of this fulfilled promise every time I receive the sacraments.
- The Fruitfulness of the Obedience of Faith: Gratitude and zeal consumed the man’s heart after being set free. He was eager to jump into the boat with Jesus. Like him, we formulate our way to follow Jesus according to our zealous feelings. And yet, Jesus told him, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” That seems too simple for such a gift received! To obey in faith is to listen closely to Jesus’s desires. Jesus desires ALL people to come to a living faith–those “on the other side of the lake” and those at our sides. Don’t underestimate the efficacy of sharing the wonders that God works. From the celebrated site of this miracle (Kursi, Holy Land) to the nearest city of the Decapolis (Hippos/Suscita), this man would have walked about two hours. The ruins of Hippos boast of a once vibrant city of faith until its earthquake in 849. They stand as a witness to the fruitfulness of one man’s witness. “Then the man…began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.”
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I praise you for your mercy. Help me to respond with gratitude and share your goodness of heart with others.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will assent in obedience to your invitations to deeper faith and witness.
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 1, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 1, The Desire for God.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who is dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala, https://rcspirituality.org/book/mary-magdalene-insights-from-ancient-magdala/.