And when Jesus came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met Him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged Him, “If You cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their neighborhood. And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to His own city. Matthew 8: 28-34; 9:1 (Fifth Sunday of Matthew)
Today’s Gospel reading is about the healing of two men possessed by demons. There are two things that stand out from the story. First, the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God. They recognized His power, His ability to torment them before the Last Judgment. Jesus proceeded to heal the two men by casting the demons into a herd of swine, who promptly ran down a steep bank into the sea and drowned.
Second, the herdsmen, now deprived of their means of subsistence, went into the city and told everyone what had happened to the demoniacs. The whole city came out to meet Jesus. Instead of rejoicing that two men were freed from demons, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood.
We know that the Lord works miracles, large and small, in every human life. We know that sometimes even miracles come with costs. In this case, the miracle of healing two demoniacs came at the cost of a herd of swine. In our lives, the birth of a child is a miracle but comes with a cost of raising of child – both financial and emotional. Miracles occur in careers which also require challenging relocations.
The question we are left to ponder from today’s Gospel is, what is OUR reaction to God’s miracles in our lives? Do we invite Him to stay with us, or do we demand that He leave, as did the Gadarenes?
It seems surprising that the people asked Jesus to leave their neighborhood. One would think that a man who wielded the power of demons would be someone you’d invite to stick around for a while. It seems that there were materialistic reasons that they asked Jesus to leave their city – He had left herdsmen without a herd.
Jesus wants to make His home in each of us. He wants us to invite Him in. And yet, just like that Gadarenes, many reject Jesus, believing that to follow Him consigns one to not be materially rich, or behaviorally free. There are many reasons why we reject Jesus – some of us reject Him all the time, while everyone, even those who are devout followers, reject Him at times.
Accepting Jesus is not a one-time event. While there are some churches that believe in a once-saved, always saved theology, our church views salvation as a process. We were saved by the Resurrection of Christ. We are in the process of being saved today. We will eventually be saved only by the Grace of God. We are supposed to invite Him to be part of our lives, our jobs, our families, and all that we do, on a regular basis.
Jesus stands at the door of our hearts, already working miracles large and small for us. The question for today is this: Do we regularly invite Him in to take up His abode in us? Do we invite Him in only when it is convenient? Or do we send Him away, based our actions.
Looking up at the entrance to the sepulcher, and unable to endure the Angel’s radiance, the myrrh-bearing women were trembling and said in astonishment: Has He been stolen, who to the Robber opened up Paradise? Has He arisen, who spoke of rising before even suffering? He is truly risen as Christ our God, granting those in Hades life and resurrection. (First Kathismata from Orthros, Tone Four, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Invite the Lord into your heart each and every day, including today!