Anne O’Brien, Deputy CEO (Mission People and Culture), reads from the Gospel of Matthew (8: 28-34) in which Jesus heals two men by driving out the demons tormenting them into a herd of pigs. Such was the impact of this healing that the people living in the area implored him to leave the neighbourhood.
Anne notes a theme in this reading that Jesus is actually a great disturber. In the chapter of Matthew’s Gospel we have been reading we have seen Jesus heal various people, then calm the storm on the lake. It makes us question ‘Who is Jesus?’ The Son of God would be the answer. However, this fundamental truth is proclaimed today, not by a disciple, but by people that the Gospel translation calls “demoniacs”, who are wary of Jesus’ power and not at all pleased to have encountered him. It makes you wonder, what is this all about?
In the ancient world, disturbing behaviour was attributed to evil spirits or demons.
It was believed in Jesus’ time that when the Messiah appeared he would put an end to evil and inaugurate a new era in which evil had been conquered. And so Matthew recounts that he was opposed by the demons who had possessed these people.
What about us? How do we see Jesus? As a friend, a healer and teacher?
He is indeed all these, but he has also been described by the French Jesuit theologian, Henri de Lubac, as ‘the great disturber’. And we have seen from today’s Gospel that the disturbance the Lord might bring can lead us to a greater peace. It might be a good idea to let Jesus disturb us from time to time, especially, when we are challenged by confliction or complacency in our faith, or laziness. At times like this we should allow Jesus to disturb us. This disturbing just might be the awakening we need to find this greater peace.
In closing Anne invites us to pray:
God and Father of infinite love and compassion, your Son Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin and death. Strengthen our faith when we struggle with evil in our own lives and lead us deeper into the peace you can give. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.