The Gospel of St. Mark is the shortest of the four, but some of the stories that Mark tells are quite long and filled with details. Today’s Gospel of the curing of a man who is possessed by demons is just such an example.
The first thing that impresses me about this story is the fact that the demon or demons know who Jesus is. When one considers how many of Jesus’ own people failed to recognize who he was, I find it particularly fascinating that these evil powers not only recognize Jesus but openly admit that they know him.
The second thing that impresses me is that the demons obey Jesus’ word. They flee from him so quickly that they inhabit a herd of swine and pitch themselves off a cliff and drown in the sea. They were powerless before Jesus.
The third thing that impresses me is that this story does not take place in a Jewish setting. This healing story takes place in the territory of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes). The man who is healed is a Gentile. Jesus sends him away and tells him to return to his family. He takes it upon himself to proclaim what Jesus has done for him.
Finally, I am fascinated by the name by which the demon identifies itself, “Legion.” The word itself signifies a multitude or many demons. However, Scripture scholars believe that St. Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome for the Christian community of Rome. The word “legion” takes on even greater connotations in that context.
While one could approach the Gospel from a variety of viewpoints depending upon which detail is most impressive, my fascination with the man who was healed is uppermost in my prayer today. Jesus sends him back to his family. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent.” Though we don’t know the man’s name and though he is obviously not one of the Twelve, this man was sent by Jesus. The Gospel writer tells us that he “proclaimed” what Jesus had done for him. I have to ask myself when the last time was that I proclaimed what Jesus has done for me. Perhaps that is a question we can all ask ourselves today.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator