Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
Saint of the Day: Stachys and companions
Fr. Marty Nagy
Glory to Jesus Christ! Слава Ісусу Христу!
It’s not always easy to do God’s will, because the world opposes it, and even our own fallen nature might resist it. Always remember Jesus. He said, "You can do nothing without Me."
In today's Gospel, as Jesus stepped on the Gerasenes' land, a demonic, a person possessed by demons, met Him. Immediately demons begin to be drawn out of him like a warm pad draws out poison or infection. The moment we turn to Jesus, He begins to draw irrational things out of our lives and heal us.
So, Jesus is met by a naked, homeless man, possessed by a demon who shrieks when he sees Jesus. If you meet someone like that, you can ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" Today's Gospel tells us. Jesus doesn’t look away. He looks him in the eyes and offers real help. Jesus prays for him, commands the unclean spirits to leave him alone.
Jesus asks the demon’s name. For those of us who have addictions, we know that recovery begins with admitting our problem. And we have to go to the doctor, before he or she can prescribe a cure. Therapists, mentors, or coaches help us identify and overcome obstacles. In confession, we admit our sins and receive healing.
Habitual sin can feel as tyrannical as a demonic possession. St. Jerome said that "a sinful habit becomes second nature, and to overcome it we must conquer nature itself, which is the greatest victory a person can achieve." But we need to turn to Jesus for help.
St. Jerome also says, “If the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know” (Catechism of Catholic Church, 1456).
We do not have the wherewithal to resist temptation without Jesus, though. In The Way of the Ascetics, Tito Colliander counsels, “Do not direct your gaze towards the enemy. Never get into a controversy with him….With his millennia of experience he knows the trick that can render you helpless. No, stand in your heart and keep your gaze upward; then the heart is protected.”
St. Lucia, whom the Mother of God appeared to at Fatima said, "In prayer you will find more knowledge, more light, more strength, more grace and virtue than you could ever achieve by by great studies. Never consider as wasted the time you spend in prayer. In prayer God communicates to you the light, strength and grace you need."
The demons fled the demoniac, entered swine, and drowned. This symbolizes the waters of baptism drowning our old nature and making us new creations in Jesus. The baptism rite begins with an exorcism. We renounce Satan and his influence. We receive the Holy Spirit and all we’ll ever need for salvation.
But we need to let baptism manifest in our lives. This happens by prayer, and by resisting sinful habits and fostering good habits. The sacrament (mystery) of confession, also, restores the grace of baptism.
Drowning demons and sin with swine also symbolizes God’s divine power to FORGET our sins. Hebrews 8:12 says, “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and remember their sins NO MORE.” (Emphasis added.)
God wants us to accept and even foster this divine gift ourselves. If God forgets our sins, who are we to keep punishing ourselves or other people for sins? Who are we to remember what God has forgotten?
The Gerasenes chained the demoniac, but Jesus healed him and set him free. The demoniac was naked and exposed, but Jesus clothed him with the dignity of God and he came to his senses. However, instead of thanking God and accepting him, his own people only remembered the demoniac’s past and were afraid and suspicious.
We all make poor choices at times. But if we practice what we profess as Christians, then we believe people can change, and Jesus works in everyone to make us new creatures. He conforms each of us to His own image. Jesus calls us to forgive and to forget. He also calls us to get the help we need to change.
When asked to leave, Jesus did not abandon the Gerasenes. He commissioned the former demoniac to remind them of what Jesus had done for him. Sometimes, it’s the persons who go through the hardest struggles who become the saints among us and become the greatest witnesses to God’s healing love.
Saints Bernadette and St. Maria Goretti, Saints Demetrius and John the Baptist were virtuous from childhood. But St. Bartolo Longo was a Satanist priest and did unspeakable things, but turned to Jesus and is now a saint. St. Augustine had a child out of wedlock. St. Paul the Apostle helped murder the deacon Stephen. St. Silouhan nearly murdered someone and abandoned the mother of his child and the child. He turned to Jesus and later said of God’s mercy, "I am…deserving of every punishment; but instead of punishment the Lord gave me the Holy Spirit!"
Today’s demoniac, was always called to tell others about God’s mercy and healing. The first reading says, “We are God’s handiwork, His workmanship, His work of art, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
When Jesus and the demoniac meet, Jesus is looking into the eyes of a person He Himself made with all His care and love. He knows the demoniac's talents and struggles that are hidden and waiting to be ignited into life by His grace.
The word repentance means to turn toward. When we sin, God simply wants us to look at Him, ask His help, and get back to the work. The sooner we return to loving God and others, and ourselves, the better.
I once worked as a carpenter, framing buildings. If every time I bent a nail, I ran to the foreman and said, "Sorry, I ruined another nail," he’d say, “Get back to work, stop wasting time.”
I used to think I needed to feel terrible for days or weeks after I sinned. God knows I’m going to sin. Jesus simply responds, “I love you. You can do nothing without Me. Now let’s get back to work.”