Monday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time – Year B

Posté par diaconos le 1 février 2021

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Jesus cast out the demons of the devil from Gadara

# The story of the expulsion of demons among the Gadarenes can be found in the three synoptic Gospels. The scene seems to be located in Gadara, today Umm Qeis in Jordan, not far from the Lake of Tiberias, or in Gerasa. Saint John Chrysostom tells that this miracle shows all the mercy, the providential eye that God has for humans. And he added: « We still learn from this story that God does not only watch over all of us in general, but over each one of us in particular. Jesus Christ expressly declared this to his disciples when he said to them : « All the hairs on your head have been counted » (Matth. X, 30) ».

Father Antoni Carol i Hostench focuses his homily on human freedom. For him, the divine power concretised by this miracle is as great as the freedom given to human beings to believe in God, or not to believe, despite the proofs given. Umm Qeis is a city in the Jordanian province of Irbid, 20 km northwest of the provincial capital Irbid and 3 km south of the Yarmouk. It is built on the site of the ancient city of Gadara . The city was also called Antiochia Semiramis or Antiochia Seleucia, and was one of the cities of the Decapolis.

# Legion is a demon or group of demons, particularly those in two of three versions of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, an account in the New Testament of an incident in which Jesus performs an exorcism. The earliest version of this story exists in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus encounters a possessed man and calls on the demon to emerge, demanding to know its name – an important element of traditional exorcism practice. He finds the man is possessed by a multitude of demons who give the collective name of « Legion ».

This story is also in the other two Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of Luke shortens the story but retains most of the details including the name (Luke 8:26–8:33). The Gospel of Matthew shortens it more dramatically, changes the possessed man to two men (a particular stylistic device of this writer) and changes the location to the country of the Gadarenes. This is probably because the author was aware that Gerasa is actually around 50 km away from the Sea of Galilee (although Gadara is still 10 km distant). In this version, the demons are unnamed (Matthew 8, 28–8, 32).


From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark

At that time, Jesus and his disciples arrived on the other side of Lake Galilee, in the country of the Gerasenes. As Jesus got out of the boat, immediately a man possessed by an unclean spirit came out from the tombs to meet him; he lived in the tombs and no one could tie him up, even with a chain; indeed, he had often been tied up with leg irons and chains, but he had broken the chains, broken the irons, and no one could control him.

All the time, night and day, he was among the tombs and on the hills, shouting and hurting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran to him, bowed down before him and cried out in a loud voice :  »What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God ? I adjure you by God, do not torment me! «   For Jesus said to him : « Unclean spirit, come out of the man ! »

And he asked her : « What’s your name ? » And the man said : « My name is Legion, for we are many «  And they begged Jesus insistently not to drive them out of the country. Now there was a large herd of pigs there on the hillside looking for food. Then the unclean spirits begged Jesus : « Send us to these swine, and we will go into them. »

He allowed them to do so. Then they came out of the man and went into the pigs. From the top of the cliff, the herd rushed into the sea: there were about two thousand pigs, and they were drowning in the sea. And those who were guarding them fled, and they told the news in the city and in the country, and the people came and saw what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the possessed man sitting, clothed and coming to his senses, who had had the legion of demons, and they were afraid.

Those who had seen all this told them the story of the possessed man and what had happened to the pigs. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their territory. As Jesus got back into the boat, the possessed man begged to be with him. He did not agree, but said to him : « Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord has done for you in his mercy. » Then the man went away and began to proclaim in the region of the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and everyone was in awe. (Mk 5, 1-20)

The demon of Gadara

Jesus and his apostles arrived at the other side of the lake, having weathered the storm. Mark recounted in much more detail than the other evangelists : « The demon was continually, night and day, in the tombs and on the mountains, crying out and bruising himself with stones.  »   These details, preserved by Mark, showed how frenetic the unfortunate man became. The fury doubled his strength. This is often seen in raving lunatics, but Mark wanted to indicate an influence of the power of darkness.

Graves and mountains are mentioned together, because tombs in the East were natural caves or dug into the side of a hill. The demonic dwelt in these remote and gloomy places in search of solitude. The acts of violence exercised on himself by this unfortunate man (bruising himself with stones), and of which Mark alone restrained him, were considered by some interpreters as signs of repentance or despair and not as a simple effect of furious madness.

This sick man, prey to the power of darkness, also endured terrible moral s  uffering. From this point of view, we can better understand the greatness of the deliverance he owed to Jesus. The readiness of the sick man to rush to Jesus as soon as he saw him from afar and to throw himself at his feet proved, as Olshausen observed, that the first aspect of Jesus exerted a beneficial influence on him, that he felt attracted to him and that he expected relief from it.

Until then, the sick man acted with awareness of himself and his misfortune, but Jesus, by ordering the unclean spirit to come out, aroused the latter’s resistance, which produced in his victim one of those paroxysms in which she was no more than the organ of the the devil who spoke through her. Adding : « I adjure you by God », the unclean spirit probably thought that Jesus would more easily grant his request not to be tormented. What did he mean by this ?

Jesus asked the sick man a question to calm him down and make him communicate with him. In the turmoil, exaltation and suffering in which this man found himself, nothing was more appropriate to bring him back to himself and to the realities of his life than to pronounce his name, to tell Jesus with confidence who he was. Unfortunately, he was still too much under the influence of the evil spirit to answer with a clear conscience of himself ; so thethe devil spoke again, and, not without pride and wickedness, he took his name from those fearsome Roman legions that terrorised and repelled the Jewish people.

Luke reflected : « Many  devil had entered him »; it was also the spirit who added through the mouth of the sick man : « We are many ». Is this to be understood as a multiplicity of influences that the spirit exerted on all the faculties of his victim ? Or is it to be understood that there were many devil in her ? This mountainous region where caves and tombs abounded was particularly appealing to them.

Luke gave an easier to understand reason for this request: « The demons feared being sent into the abyss, which they probably regarded as a place of torment. The same idea is found in Matthew, where the demons begged Jesus not to torment them before the time of judgement. The words: there, towards the mountain, do not contradict Matthew’s words: far away from them; these two words express a certain distance.

This part of the story, preserved by the three evangelists, presents facts that are very difficult to explain, all the more difficult as they are without analogy in the New Testament. Why did the demons, forced to leave their victims, ask to enter the swine ? Is it because these spirits without organs, miserable in their abandonment of God, enjoy living in organised beings? Is it with the wicked intention of harming these animals, their owners, perhaps even Jesus and his influence ?

Why did Jesus allow them to do so ? Was it because it was the means to deliver the unfortunate, the object of his interest and compassions? Or to exercise judgment on the inhabitants of the land and provoke serious thoughts in them ? How could he have had no regard for the loss they suffered ? Did he want to punish them (at least those of them who were Jews) for breaking the law by raising legally impure animals ?

The devil-possessed man, who had been agitated and frantic until then, sat down quietly and was clothed, whereas before he had not worn any clothes : « When Jesus came down to earth, a man from the city met him, who was possessed by several demons. He had not been clothed for a long time, and his dwelling place was not in a house but in the tombs.  » (Lk 8, 27) He was in his right mind, whom Mark called a madman; he called him to mind and added these words : « He who had had the legion ».

These people were filled with fear, seeing only the wonder and not the divine compassion of Jesus who had performed it; many were offended in their greed, and this was enough to make them want to deprive themselves of the blessings of Jesus’ presence in their blindness. The healed devil wanted to follow Jesus out of a deep gratitude; he thought that with his benefactor he would be safer from the terrible evils he had suffered. Why did Jesus not allow him to do this ? Jesus wanted to leave this man in his house, with his own people, to be a monument and a preacher of divine mercy to all.  He let the whole region know what great things Jesus had done to him.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian Web sites

◊ : click here to read the paper → Healing the Demoniac at Gadara

◊ Got Questions : click here to read the paper →   Why are there two demon-possessed men in the Gerasene tombs in Matthew

Rick Renner : « Jesus Casts a Legion of Demons Out of a Demoniac « 

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