Monday, February 1, 2010

Do we allow God to "disturb" us from time to time, or do we send him away? (Monday, Week IV in Ordinary Time, Mark 5:1-20)

Jesus and his disciples 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 hillsideshe 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 himnot 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 townand 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 happenedto the possessed man and to the swine.Then they began to beg him to leave their district.

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When one reads this account of the cure of Gerasene man possessed by demons, it is perhaps neither his cure nor the fact that Jesus sent the possessing demons into a herd of swine that surprises most. Instead it is the fact that those who had witnessed these truly amazing things begged Jesus “to leave their district”. One would’ve thought that these individuals would have regarded the whole matter with joy and gratitude; instead they regarded it with terror. And one would’ve thought that they would urge Jesus to stay with them and continue to exercise further his amazing powers of healing; instead they urged him to depart from their midst as quickly as possible. Why? True, a man had been healed, and that was an amazing thing, but they also lost their herd of swine, and perhaps they wanted no more of this. It was simply too much of a disturbance of their day to day lives than they could handle. The routine of their daily existence had been unsettled, and they wanted nothing more than to have the disturbing element removed as quickly as possible.

And is this not the usual battle-cry of the human mind: “Please do not disturb me”. For the most part, people simply want to be left alone; they do not wish their peace, security, comfort, and tranquility disturbed. We get upset when the routines which we’ve gotten used to are disturbed. Perhaps that’s what was happening to these persons in the gospel. There was no question in their minds that Jesus did a marvelous thing; but now that it was over, it was time to get back to the regularity and predictability of their lives. And so they begged him, “leave us alone”.

Do we not, from time to time, find ourselves telling God something similar? “Leave me alone”. We get used to things, our way of doing them, to our way of living life, that we do not wish to be disturbed or intruded upon by God who, interestingly enough, often acts in quite mysterious, surprising, and unexpected ways.

If there is one thing we can be certain about God, it is that he knows how to disrupt our complacency. Just when we find ourselves lulled into the boredom and routine of daily existence, just when we lose touch with the great adventure that is life, God has a way of inserting himself into our lives, waking us up, and reminding us that there is far more to life than our set ways of doing things.

New experiences perhaps, new relationships, new challenges—these are ways by which God calls us out of our slumber and continuously awakens us to the great adventure that is life. We of course can respond in either of two ways, by waking up and following where he leads, or to do as the people in the gospel did, beg him to stop disturbing us, leave us alone and simply go away.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)