Demons

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 hillsides
he 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 him
not 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 town
and 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 happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg him to leave their district.
As he was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
(Mark 5:1-20)

Scripture Study

5:1 The territory of the Gerasenes: the reference is to pagan territory; cf. Is 65:1. Another reading is “Gadarenes”; this is the reading of Codex Vaticanus, supported by other important textual witnesses. The original reading of Codex Sinaiticus was Gazarenes, later changed to Gergesenes, and a few versions have Gerasenes. Each of these readings points to a different territory connected, respectively, with the cities Gadara, Gergesa, and Gerasa (modern Jerash). There is the same confusion of readings in the parallel texts, Mk 5:1 and Lk 8:26; there the best reading seems to be “Gerasenes,” whereas “Gadarenes” is probably the original reading in Matthew. The town of Gadara was about five miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, and Josephus (Life 9:42) refers to it as possessing territory that lay on that sea.

5:2–6 The man was an outcast from society, dominated by unclean spirits (Mk 5:8, 13), living among the tombs. The prostration before Jesus (Mk 5:6) indicates Jesus’ power over evil spirits.

5:7 What have you to do with me?: literally, “What is this to me and to you?”—a Hebrew expression of either hostility (Jgs 11:12; 2 Chr 35:21; 1 Kgs 17:18) or denial of common interest (Hos 14:9; 2 Kgs 3:13). Cf. Mk 1:24; 5:7 used by demons to Jesus.

5:9 Legion is my name: the demons were numerous and the condition of the possessed man was extremely serious; cf. Mt 12:45.

5:11 Herd of swine: The tending of pigs, animals considered unclean by Mosaic law (Lv 11:6–7), indicates that the population was Gentile.

5:19 Go home: Jesus did not accept the man’s request to remain with him as a disciple (Mk 5:18), yet invited him to announce to his own people what the Lord had done for him, i.e., proclaim the gospel message to his pagan family; cf. Mk 1:14, 39; 3:14; 13:10.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel shows Jesus driving the unclean spirit from the Gerasene demoniac. What we see here on vivid display is Jesus the miracle worker.

Modern thinkers tend to be wary of this dimension. For instance, Thomas Jefferson took a straight razor to the pages of the Gospels and cut out everything that smacked of the supernatural—miracles, exorcisms, and so on. The problem, of course, is that he had to make an absolute mess of Mark’s Gospel, which is positively chock-a-block with such things.

Jefferson’s contemporary, the great modern philosopher David Hume, wrote a powerfully influential text against miracles. He claimed that since the laws of nature were set, miracles were, strictly speaking, impossible. Accounts of them, he concluded, were the result of the foggy or wishful thinking of primitive people.

But though God typically lets the universe run according to its natural rhythms and patterns, what is to prevent God from shaping it and influencing it occasionally in remarkable ways, in order to signal his purpose and presence?

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.