Gospel Reflection – Monday 4th week in Ordinary Time (29 January) – The power of Jesus
Fr Paul Gooley reads today’s Gospel from Mark (5: 1-20) in which, when Jesus got out of a boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. Fr Paul says this dramatic story of the healed demoniac is special in several ways. Firstly, this is the only occasion in Mark 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. 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. Then two features of the story itself stand out. There is a fantastic contrast between the raging, uncouth demoniac, a big, tough fellow whom no one could control, with 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’, for a legion comprised 6,000 men! This is a final act of bravado before the whimpered request to take refuge in the pigs. And the pigs themselves? To the Jews pigs are unclean animals, and (like rats or other pests) the more of them destroyed, the better! Anyway, they are only a flourish at the end of the story, to show the accumulated strength of the unclean spirits that were flushed out. Fr Paul invites us to reflect on today’s Gospel lesson – God is here to help everyone.