Hebrews 11:32-40 / Mark 5:1-20
These heroes suffered much; A dream born of faith sustained them.
Concert musician Itzhak Perlman says that before he was four years old two things happened to shape his future in an irreversible way: he was stricken with polio, and he heard a recording of violinist Jascha Heifetz. The polio took away his legs, but Heifetz’s music gave him wings. It gave him a dream that set him on the road to musical greatness. Perlman is a faint, modern reflection of the great, great heroes of the old Testament. They also suffered much, but they also had a dream that set them on the road to spiritual greatness.
What dream spurs us on in our moments of suffering and trial?
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Rom 8:18
The author of Hebrews gives praise to the faith of great men and women of the Old Testament: Kings and other leaders, prophets, martyrs. Even if they did not yet know Christ, they had great faith.
It is a fact of life that no one is immune to the trials and tribulations of life. But it is through trials and tribulations that one comes to a self-realization and becomes more resilient to the difficulties and hardships of life. And it is also through trials and tribulations that one comes to realize who God is and how much one needs His help.
1. God Is Stronger: The humanity of the possessed man had been conquered by evil, which tortured him “night and day” and roamed the tombs unrestrained. But that evil prostrated itself before Our Lord and begged. We can draw great consolation from the image of Legion kneeling and pleading before the Lord. The Catechism teaches, “The power of Satan is … not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him (Romans 8:28).” (CCC 395.)
2. Jesus Came to Gentiles: The presence of swine indicated that Jesus had come to gentile territory. He exercised his ministry in the same way among the Gentiles as he had among the Jews—exorcising devils and restoring humanity. Not until St. Paul later preached and traveled did the early Church acknowledge that the Gospel message was for everyone, but here Jesus showed by his actions that he made no distinction among peoples. He is Lord for all! As his followers, we are called to see everyone as a brother or sister–Greek, Jew, American–everyone.
3. These Gentiles Failed: Wherever Jesus went, the individuals he encountered had to decide: “Is he the Son of God, a prophet, or an imposter?” The Gentiles from the Gerasenes also had to decide. Was this man who cast devils into a huge herd of swine who Legion said he was—or not? As these people approached Jesus, they saw the possessed man fully sane and restored. They witnessed the swine dead in the sea, yet they did not prostrate themselves before Jesus. They begged Jesus to leave. They failed to realize that “the kingdom of heaven” was at hand. Were they blinded by fear or angry at their financial losses? Either way, they rejected the graces God had in store for them, and instead chose to banish the Son of God from their midst.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, with hindsight it’s easy to call the Gentiles from the Gerasenes foolish for rejecting you. They failed to perceive your power over evil, your compassion for the sinner/possessed, your benevolence in coming to their territory—and so much more. I am just as blind, deaf, and dumb every time I choose to sin. Please, Lord, “lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.”
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will say a decade of the rosary asking for forgiveness for my sins and the sins of the whole world. “For the sake of your sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world” (Divine Mercy Chaplet).