Let God Arise…

A Homily on the Healing of the Gadarene Demoniac

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Mt. 6:13).

Photo: holycrossonline.org Photo: holycrossonline.org     

Today, pious listeners, we heard the Gospel account of the healing of the Gadarene demoniac (Luke 8:26-39).

We always have some fear or horror when we hear or read about this healing. We are terrified by the power the demonic forces have over the man. What did it do, what did this power turn man into? Always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones (Mk. 5:5).

He had no clothing (Lk. 8:27). His wild appearance, his savagery (Mt. 8:28), and his cries induced terror among the local surrounding inhabitants. They repeatedly tried to help him (Mk. 5:4), but no fetters or chains could protect him and tame the fits of rage and malice. The demons deprived him of his human reason and will, and, having completely mastered him, made him a victim of their cruelty and fierce hatred. He was as if no longer a man, but a cruel demon incarnate.

And when Christ appeared there, it wasn’t a man but a demon (a legion of demons) who started explaining himself to Him. Even seeing Christ from afar, he began to be tormented (Mk. 5:7), according to St. John Chrysostom, “simply from the presence of Christ.” Having run and worshiped Him (Mk. 5:6), he began to loudly shout: What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not (Lk. 8:28). The demon also suffered from the awareness that Christ would cast him out of the man, and, more importantly, that He could send him before the time (Mt. 8:29) into the abyss of hell. And the demon prayed that Christ not cast him out of that land (Mk. 5:10) but allow him to enter into the herd of swine (Lk. 8:32). It is characteristic of demonic nature to destroy all living things, and it is no surprise that, entering into the swine, they dashed into the sea and drowned them. The demonic legion thereby achieved two goals: The herd was destroyed and the owner of the pigs rose up against Christ.

What was with Christ? How he could allow this to happen; how could He allow so many (2,000) pigs to be destroyed? He allowed it to happen because He wanted to show the people that the human soul, that is, the soul of the demoniac, is worth immeasurably more than pigs, for it is worth more than the whole world (Mt. 16:26), and no ransom, no treasure or herd of animals can replace it (its value). Christ also wanted to show that the demons would have destroyed the entire human race long ago if not for God’s special care for every man (Mt. 10:30), as seen in this case.

By the miracle of healing the demoniac, Christ wanted to show the omnipotence of God, as St. John Chrysostom says.

Finally, Christ allowed this destruction of the pigs to take place for special providential purposes regarding the Gadarene pagan people, who were strangers to the one true God. This people, caught up in the vanity of worldly cares, could be roused, made to think about God, only by terror and great fear before some miraculous event. These events constituted two miracles: the healing of the demoniac and the total destruction of the herd of swine, which rushed down the slope into the sea, without any apparent reason.

The Gospel tells us about this double shock of the people, saying that the people were terrified when they saw the man sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind (Lk. 8:36), and that they were seized with great fear (v. 37) because of this and the loss of the flock.

The superstitious and ignorant people responded to these miracles directly and immediately: They decided, without understanding the meaning of the events, to rid themselves of the culprit—Christ the Wonderworker. So they asked Christ to depart. Not understanding Christ and fearing Him, the people themselves were unable to immediately assess the events worthily, that is, according to their deep, spiritual meaning. They needed time and help in this from someone else close to them, and not where the events played out, but where they actually lived and where they could relate to the events more calmly and reasonably.

But who else near to them could help them if not he who was the center of these events, who, having received healing from Christ, perceived and felt His grace-filled Divine power upon himself? However, he (the healed one) absolutely did not want to part with Christ. He asked Christ’s permission to be with Him (Mk. 5:18). But Christ said to him: Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him (Lk. 8:39) and how He had compassion upon him (Mk. 5:19).

Thereby, brothers and sisters, a son of the Gadarene nation itself was appointed for the work of the spiritual enlightenment of the people. He who previously inflicted terror upon the people was left to be its teacher. He who called out to the surroundings with a wild cry is left to be their enlightener. He who beat his head upon a rock was directed to knock and beat upon the rocky hearts of his people. He who was in chains and fetters was called to be an apostle of spiritual freedom and the emancipation of the spirit of the people for life in God. Wondrous are Thy works, O Lord! What a change took place in this man! Could such a change happen without the help of God? And how compelling and salvific should the preaching about God of this Gadarene, healed by Christ, have been for the Gadarene people, when the people came to themselves and gave themselves a final account of the meaning of the events that took place.

Brothers and sisters! The enemy’s power brings a terrible calamity to a man if he fully possesses him, as we see with the Gadarene demoniac. But it hurts a man when it acts upon him with temptations. It’s not for nothing that in the Lord’s Prayer we pray: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Mt. 6:13). Temptations and seductions penetrate us through the eyes, ears, smell, and touch; through thoughts (imagination) and other ways. And the evil one always seeks to strengthen them, to carry and draw us away from God. How often are heard the complaints: “Sinful thoughts overcome me,” “sin possesses me,” “I don’t know how to fight with the obscene thoughts and temptations that have engulfed me.” In the fight with all of this, only the Savior and His Cross can help. In all temptations, seductions, doubts, delusions, weakening of body and soul, in any possession by an evil power, let us pray: “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered,” “By the power of the precious and life-giving Cross, deliver me, O God, from the wiles and temptations of enemy forces.” No power can stand before the power of the Cross and the power of the name of God. And the Lord bestows this power upon us if we prayerfully turn to Him for help with deep faith and love.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, sinners! Lead us not, our Heavenly Father, into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.

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