The Lord’s entry into the country of the Gadarenes was a testimony that He came into this world, to seek and save the darkened and fallen nature of humanity, because the situation cannot remain like this. Humans should not live with a fearful and darkened heart, but in joy, in love and in the light.
The light is to know, what is the goal of our life? The purpose of our life is that we become holy, perfect in love. St John said, ‘the person who fears is not perfected in love, but perfect love casts out fear’ (1 Jn 4:18). This means, to reach a state of mind where we can love and glorify God because He is our Creator and He created everything good; to give ourselves to God and have victory over death.
We see this right state of mind take place after Jesus healed the demon possessed man. The man was ‘’sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed in his right mind’’ (Lk 8:35), he ‘’begged that he might be with him’’ (Lk 8:38), but he was sent away on a mission by Jesus to witness and teach ‘’throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him’’ (Lk 8:39). Everyone in this story, with the exception of Jesus, was afraid. The demoniac was afraid and the townspeople were afraid. Even after the demon possessed man was healed, the townspeople were still afraid!
What causes fear? What frightens people? Is it facing death? Is it their lack of knowing the purpose of life, to love God and His creation in Jesus Christ? Jesus said: ‘’Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness instead of light, lest their deeds should be exposed’’ (Jn 3:19). In other words, lest their lack of love be exposed.
Socrates said: ‘’we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light’’. People are so caught up in running from the things that frighten them, that they miss the point and message of life.
People fear poverty, starvation, cancer, and crime. People even fear truth and honesty, being upright with themselves and pure in their heart. So one will say to themselves: “What if people knew how I really feel, who I really am? Surely, they would not like me.” Fear involves pain and suffering. This is why it concerns itself with movement, the fight and flight response, doing anything to take away the fear.
There’s a primal part of us that instinctively feels scared when we believe we recognize a threat. If we’re not self-aware, and if we don’t learn to challenge ourselves, that fear can manifest in all kinds of limiting emotions and actions. It can keep us from getting to know people who could be kindred spirits, despite an appearance that might suggest otherwise. It can prevent us from taking smart risks that could help us reach our dreams. It can even bind us in depression and anxiety, convincing us the world is full of suffering, when oftentimes, our interpretations create it.
Ultimately, all of the little fears come from one big fear, that is, the fear of death. If people are sensitive enough to ‘believe in their hearts that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead’ (Rom 10:9), they already rejoice in their hearts because they know that in Jesus Christ, life comes through death.
We need to die to our life in order to allow Christ’s life to live in us, if we are to overcome death. Jesus said: ”For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Lk 9:25). Therefore the gospel calls us to do something quite different than what we are used to doing with fear in our lives. It invites us not to run away from fear, not to run away from death. The gospel calls us to follow the example of Christ, to love the light. Jesus Christ said: ‘’I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’’ (Jn 8:12).
Jesus did not run away from the demoniac. He met him face to face. He did not run away from Golgotha. He met death face to face. Courageous people are not those who have not experienced fear, but those who know it intimately and who do not let it rule them, they do not become slaves to fear. They know that in dying with Christ, they shall live; ‘’I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’’ (Jn 11:25). The fruits of faith are courage, joy and peace which lead you into the love of God. Then you do everything for this love, you live in Christ and Christ lives in you and death becomes life.
The Lord invites us to leave our fears behind and come to Him as we are, even confused, sick or dead. With a single personal encounter by the Lord, the man’s mind was completely changed. From being a slave to demons, a slave to fear living ‘among the tombs’, he became a humble witness and servant of the most high who sat at his Lord’s feet ‘clothed in his right mind’ (Lk 8:35).
But how is it that the Lord makes His presence known to a multitude of people through this miracle, and then He is rejected by the same people? The townspeople had literally sent God away from their lives, because their hearts were insensitive (Lk 8:4-15). Their hearts were dead to the Word and Son of God because He was a threat to their ego and challenged their view about themselves. This is why in ‘seeing they could not see and hearing they could not understand’ (Lk 8:10). The demons recognised Jesus as the ‘Son of the Most High God’ (Lk 8:28) as they are bodiless spirits.
The townspeople sinned, they missed the point, they alienated themselves from the love of Christ. By accepting and responding to His love they would have become gods by His grace, they would have been in their right mind. But instead of preferring to be with Christ the ‘light of life’ they told Him to leave. They chose the way of death by choosing their own life. Their hearts weren’t pure, they weren’t upright with themselves. They saw that there was something about our Lord which their habits of life would never agree with. Their main concern was for this temporal life and their material possessions, and so without realising they denied the one thing that is necessary, to be with Christ. Christ delights in enriching His faithful with joy. This is what our religion is. This is the direction we must take. Christ is Paradise. Paradise begins here and now.
Let us be careful so as not to allow our fear, coldness, and arrogance drive out the Lord from our homes and our hearts. Our task is to attempt to find a way to enter into the light of Christ. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Jesus (Lk 8:38), but Jesus sent him away through His compassion for the unbelievers in the country of the Gadarenes. Jesus sent him back in to the town to witness and proclaim ‘how much Jesus had done for him’ (Lk 8:39), so they could see the light and change their hearts.
Blessed are those who hear the Lord’s voice calling in their heart, and who have the courage to follow Him, and make Him the centre of their lives by accepting and loving Him.
So we see the man from whom the demons had gone, begged that he might be with Christ. May we come to this realisation and also proclaim how much Jesus has done for us and joyfully proclaim, ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowing life’.