The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (8:26-39)
We are close now…only 10 days away from the eve of the Feast of All Saints on the western calendar. This evening celebration is called Halloween from the phrase “all hollows eve”.
On this day we often see children as well as grown adults, dress up as all sorts of awful looking things like ghouls and goblins and witches and monsters. That is certainly not something that we want to imitate. Monsters, vampires and things of that nature are not things that we should try to pretend to be, because when we do that we are in fact making light of things that are evil and demonic.
What a Christian tries to do is to baptize or chrismate everything around him. He tries to sanctify it and transform it so that it gives glory to God and affirms the good, the true and the beautiful. Perhaps one can find a way to redeem such secular holidays, with the guidance of their priests.
And while we know that much of Halloween focuses on ghosts and monsters and things that are evil, we are not at all afraid of these things because we know that Christ has defeated evil and has given us the grace to defeat evil in the place that it matters most, that is, in our hearts. God is with us! Some say that only two things are certain in this life, death and taxes. But that is not true for us. We add a third, God is with us. His presence is a sign of His love.
So we are not afraid of ghosts and goblins and nonsense, it is all under the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered not only these but death itself! But according to today’s gospel there are a couple of things that should truly terrify us. The first is that demons are real and can truly possess those who do not care for their souls. It is no surprise that the first thing that we do when we baptize anyone into the Church is that we read prayers of exorcism. The Church takes seriously the idea that demons exist, why? Is it because of superstition? Is it because the early Christians didn’t understand science or psychology? No. It is because Our Lord Jesus treats demons and demon possession as real. St. Luke the evangelist tells us that the man in the story had superhuman strength. He lived among the tombs and had the strength to break free from his chains. He would have been a truly terrifying sight. A wild, crazed man, running around naked and out of his mind. He was a plaything of the devil. He was a puppet and Satan was his master.
In actuality our Christian life is about being in the hands of a master. Either we are in the hands of Satan as his puppet, who does his will. Or we are in the hands of our Creator, the Master of our life. The One who molds us and forms us into the new man. Every choice, every decision, every moment of life, is a chance to further solidify our standing. When we choose evil, when we choose to rebel against God and fall into sin, we are choosing to have the demons add new strings to us. We are giving them control over us. Slowly, with each terrible decision we find ourselves less and less in control. Further and further away from Christ. On the other hand, when we choose Christ and follow His teachings, then Satan’s strings are cut, and we find ourselves shaped and transformed into the likeness of God.
This man was a slave and puppet to the demons. He had lost control of his mind, his heart, his body. But Christ our God, who is full of mercy, had compassion upon this man. He travelled to this gentile region, away from His people and through this He demonstrated that all people would become His people, both Jews and gentiles. And this brings us to the second truly terrifying thing in the story. It is something which could keep us awake at night if we bothered to really think about it and reflect on it. After seeing the most amazing miracle that these people had ever seen, the healing of the demon possessed man, and after seeing him seated, clothed and in his right mind. The people reacted by rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ immediately and begging Him to depart from their region and their presence. Nothing could possibly be more frightening than asking the God-man Jesus Christ to withdraw from your presence. This is the epitome of ignorance and the fulfillment of evil. And we have to ask why they acted or reacted this way?
The answer comes down to the swine. The swine were of far more value to the villagers than the presence of the Lord of glory. Oh how terrible would our life be if we one day realized that we had pushed away God because we loved something else. In this case, the thing that the people loved and desired was their financial stability and livelihood. Perhaps in some ways these people are not much different than the average person. But Christ the Lord calls us to wake up and leave behind the average misguided mindset and trust Him and love Him. If He was able to heal this man who was by all accounts quite far gone, imagine what He could do for those villagers. Imagine how much He could have changed their lives in one night, or one conversation. That is exactly what happened to the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob and we still remember her to this day!
How precious is Jesus Christ in our lives and in our heart? Or let us ask it another way…what is most precious in my life? Is it my talent or my looks or my wealth or my title and position? None of it will matter. Like the herd of swine, everything outward will perish but everything that Christ Himself builds up within us, will remain. It is our Lord’s good pleasure to transform your life and to make you a part of Him. It is His good pleasure that you be seated next to Him, clothed in righteousness and in your right mind.
St. Paul writing to the Ephesians says,
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
May our Lord grant this to us,and Glory be to God forever, AMEN.