Daily Gospel Reflection – Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Bishop Robert Barron
January 30, 2023
Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mk 5:1-20
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”) He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory.
Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
*United States Conference of Catholic
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus goes into the country of the Gerasenes and is confronted by a man with an unclean spirit, who is chained and living among the tombs.
Why has the man been chained? Is he there on the outskirts of the town for a reason? Philosopher René Girard has written persuasively on the theme of scapegoating violence. Scapegoats perform an important function in the maintenance of human societies, effectively channeling away the competition and violence that would, otherwise, tear a community apart.
And thus the Gerasene demoniac is chained to keep him close. Can we not imagine the citizens of the town coming out to gawk at the poor soul? The tortured man calls himself Legion, for there are “many” in him. Could the many in question be the citizens of the town who have projected their hateful shadows onto him?
By curing the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus announces his intention to break the pattern of scapegoating, and thus to show the people of the village a new way of being in community. Instead of projecting their violence and negativity onto an innocent other, they should turn to the difficult but ultimately soul-enlarging task of self-criticism and conversion.