Saturday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39

Binding Satan and Plundering His House

We come today to one of the more interesting healings that our Lord performed on behalf of two poor men.  It involves his casting out demons, properly called an “exorcism,” though that word has spooky and negative connotations today thanks to Hollywood.  There are two problems of detail that need not contain us for long.  First, “Gadarenes” or “Gerasenes”?  Both terms refer to geographical locations inland from the Sea of Galilee, which might have been used of the same place or region.  Another curiosity is that Matthew reports two demon-possessed men whereas Mark and Luke report only one.  This is easily resolved by suggesting that the latter two evangelists simply refer one of the men, perhaps the more prominent one.

More important is the account itself.  As soon as Jesus steps out of the boat, he is met by the men.  Their condition is truly pitiful: they are naked, live and roam among caves as animals, and are so violent no one can bind them.  Furthermore, they cut and abuse themselves (something that occurs in our day).  In short, these demons had reduced them to a most wretched condition.  As they meet Jesus, it is the demons which speak, imploring the “Son of the Most High God” not to “torment them before the time,” nor send them, Luke says, into the “abyss.”  Thus, as always, the demons know exactly who Jesus is and fear him to the uttermost of their existence.  They are aware that their time is short, that ultimate judgment and damnation await them.  They fear that Jesus will execute judgment immediately and seem to be crying out, “Not fair! Not fair!”  Not fair, indeed!  A legion, meaning as many as six thousand of these vermin, had reduced these poor men to an animal-like state.  Remember, the demons always wish to debase men, to foul, desecrate, and destroy the image of God within us.  This is what sin does to us; this is why Satan and his minions tempt us to evil.  But this passage also reminds us that the devil himself knows that he has already lost the war.  That is why the demons tremble (James 2:19); this is why the devil is in such a rage (Revelation 12:12).  So our Lord respects that “the end is not yet” and allows the demonic horde to enter the pigs – who are so terrified by the sudden invasion that they cast themselves into the sea.  We will not entertain such deluded questions as to why Jesus would allow these poor pigs to die for the sake of two men created in the image of God, as if people and pigs were equal, as some believe in our day.  Such would be the very sin the townspeople committed when they begged Jesus to leave.  They feared him, but not for the right reasons.  This is a beautiful account of our Lord’s plundering Satan’s house before the time (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27).

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