What do demons, swine and an unwelcoming town have to do with the Eucharist?
The Gospel read at Mass one day during my recent silent retreat was from Mathew (8:28-34) – a passage many of us have read or heard numerous times. Although the Eucharist is never mentioned, on this particular day the Apostle’s words drew me to that Mysterious Gift. Let me explain.
|(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
As you will recall, Jesus crossed over from Galilee into the mostly Gentile area of the Gadarenes. He and His disciples approached a field where a large herd of swine were feeding. There Jesus encountered two demon possessed men who made travel on this particular road impossible.
The demons within these men immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of God. It had to be excruciatingly painful for these evil spirits to remain in His Presence. They begged Jesus to send them into the nearby herd of swine.
“Out with you!” Jesus commanded. They entered the swine and the entire herd ran down the bluff and into the sea where they drowned.
At this sight, the swine’s caretakers (herdsmen), not knowing who Jesus was or understanding what they had just witnessed, fled the area and informed their fellow townspeople what they had seen. Matthew tells us that everyone in the town later came back to meet Jesus.
They came. They saw Jesus. But did they actually meet Him?
The townsfolk had to have seen the formerly possessed men now normal in appearance and behavior. One would think they would be full of gratitude for their restoration, to be rid of these evil spirits and to be able to travel freely on the road without fear or impediment. Surely, if they really wanted to meet and thank this Man, they would spend time in His presence, talking with and listening to Him. They had to have a multitude of questions: Who was He? From whence came His power to cast out demons? Why did He come to their town? - and so on and on.
The Son of God was in their midst! He came there intentionally. Although Gentiles, He was ready to welcome them into His loving embrace. He who had cast out demons was ready to transform them. They failed to recognize Who He was and how blessed they were to be in His Presence. They showed Him no appreciation, reverence or respect. They asked no questions. They sought no relationship with Him.
Instead, they let fear take root and snuff out the offer of faith and salvation standing at their feet. Through their actions and words, they did the unthinkable – they told Him, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Savior of mankind, the Son of God, that He was not welcome in their town, their hearts or their souls. They begged God to leave!
He left. God would never interfere with anyone’s free will no matter the pain their poor choices caused His Most Sacred and Merciful Heart.
How tragic! Jesus was right there, in their midst, seeking a relationship with each of them. They were not interested!
Let’s not be too quick to condemn or cast stones at these blind souls.
Have not many of us treated Jesus in a similar manner – not taking the time to meet, talk and listen to Him? Are we just as reluctant to seek a relationship with Him as were the Gadarenes? How many of us act like Jesus is not really, truly and substantially present here with us in the Eucharist? Do we act irreverently toward Him? Do we ignore Him, content to abandon Him to His tabernacle-prison?
If we do go to Church are we anxious to get out as quickly as we can? Do we spend time expressing our gratitude for the Gift of His Presence? Do we prepare ourselves properly to receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and with the awe, amazement, and gratitude such a Gift deserves?
How many of us ever come back to visit and talk to Him during the week? When is the last time we spent time in His Presence, just sitting there silently, basking in the invisible but ever present graces flowing from behind the locked tabernacle doors or from the Sacred and Most Precious monstrance in which He hides Himself humbly behind the Consecrated Host?
We are all guilty of inattention, indifference and irreverence toward the God Who lives among us and wishes to live within us.
To have the Son of God here with us and not to spend time with Him is the same as telling Him that we are not interested in getting to know or have an intimate relationship with Him and that He is not welcome in our minds, hearts or souls. Like the Gadarenes, we are telling the Son of God we do not want Him in, or to interfere with, our lives. We are telling God we are not interested - to leave.
Fortunately, although we are all sinners, it’s never too late to seek a relationship with our waiting Lord. He would have welcomed the reluctant Gadarenes if they came back to Him, just as He awaits the joy of welcoming us with open and loving arms.
It is simple enough. We must humble ourselves and seek a relationship with Him. We must make the conscious decision TODAY to come into His presence, open ourselves up to His transforming graces, kneel down before Him and adore Him! We must invite Him to be an intimate part of every aspect of our earthly lives.
We must strive to love Him no less than He loves us! We must silently spill our guts out to Him. He already knows what we need and with what we are struggling. He just wants us to tell Him ourselves. “Just do it!” You will never be the same.
Let us learn from the Gadarenes - it’s not enough to just come. We must want to meet Jesus! AND we must never, ever, beg the Son of God to leave!!!