Gospel Reflection for Monday – 4th Week of Ordinary Time (30 January) – The Power of Jesus
Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (5: 1-20) in which Jesus drives unclean spirits out of a man and into a herd of pigs.
Fr Paul says today’s Gospel is the dramatic story of the healed demoniac, which is special in several ways.
Firstly, this is the only occasion in Mark’s Gospels where Jesus tangles with the gentiles. It occurs in gentile territory, for the Decapolis was a group of ten Hellenistic, gentile cities to the East of Palestine.
Fr Paul says another clue is that the demoniac also uses a gentile name of God, saying ‘Most High God’. The reason why Jesus forbids the healed demoniac to accompany him may be that it is the only chance the gentiles have to hear about Jesus. Jesus’ excursion into gentile territory is an important foretaste of the mission of Christianity to the gentiles. Once the demoniac is healed it is him who carries the message of Jesus to the gentiles in the cities.
Then two features of the story itself stand out. There is a fantastic contrast between the raging, uncouth uncontrollable demoniac (a big, tough fellow whom no one could control) and the peaceful person who has received the cure, sitting properly dressed at the feet of Jesus.
When the demoniac shouts out their name it is like saying, ‘There is an army of us in here’, for a legion, which is the word we hear, comprises 6,000 men! This shouting out of the name ‘Legion’ is a final act of bravado before the whimpered request to take refuge in the pigs. And the pigs themselves? Fr Paul says we have to keep in mind that to Jews pigs are unclean animals, and (like rats or other pests) the more of them destroyed, the better! Anyway, going into the pigs and seeing them run down to the late is just the flourish at the end of the story, to show the accumulated strength of the unclean spirits that have been flushed out of the man.
In closing, Fr Paul shares today’s Gospel Lesson – God is here to help everyone.