Faith Daily | 1 February 2021
PRAYER of the WEEK Epiphany Four
you have taught us
that all our doings without love are worth nothing:
send your Holy Spirit,
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you;
grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen APBA P533
GOSPEL for the Day: Mark 5:1-20
They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ 8For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ 9Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ 10He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12and the unclean spirits* begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ 13So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
GOSPEL Reflection: Contributed by Rev'd Jonagthan
The story of the “Gerasene demoniac” is fascinating, but also quite confronting.
Jesus has travelled to ‘the far side’, a foreign area full of ‘unclean’ things and places as defined by Judean culture. Here he encounters a man who lives a literally marginalised existence, apparently being possessed by multiple demons. Jesus commands the demons to leave him, and he is healed.
There are many details of interest in the narrative, including, most memorably, the demons entering thousands of swine which then stampede into the sea and drown. Perhaps there is a reference here to the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in Exodus - something Mark and plenty of other Jews would like to see happen to the nearest occupying Roman “Legion”?
Rene Girard (1923-2015) was a philosopher who had a particular interest in the human trait of scapegoating. Today’s passage from Mark (appearing with variations in both Matthew and Luke) attracted his attention for many reasons, including the way the ‘demoniac’ had been in the habit of stoning himself, perhaps saving the townsfolk from doing it themselves?
At the end of the narrative, with the man now clothed, calm and sane, the people of the area “beg Jesus to leave”! Normally in the Gospels, Jesus is begged to stay and keep healing. Why do they want him to go? Girard would say it is because he has taken away their scapegoat and now they will need to find another – or perhaps they will need to confront their own demons from now on.
Jesus became the world’s scapegoat, in order to destroy the whole system of scapegoating: he was completely free of sin and yet was still put to death on the cross, only to rise to new life. May we acknowledge the gifts of forgiveness and healing which Jesus died to bring us, and work to ensure those still on the margins of our own society are not left abandoned and excluded.
FINAL PRAYER: Richard Rohr
Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope that we can never comprehend. Thank you for leading us into a time where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see. We pray that you will take away our natural temptation for cynicism, denial, fear and despair. Help us have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility, and greater care for one another. May we place our hope in what matters and what lasts, trusting in your eternal presence and love. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our suffering world.
Please add your own intentions . . .
Knowing, good God, you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God.