Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Amos 5:14-15.21-24; Matthew 8:28-34)
In The Good Earth, Pearl Buck’s classic novel of pre-revolutionary China, the protagonist has a brief encounter with Christianity. Having gone to the city to escape the famine that consumed the countryside, Wang Lung is handed a picture of the crucified Christ. He is fascinated by the image but has no time to inquire into who the crucified one is. Struggling to eek out a living for his family, Want Lung feels impelled to continue working.
The situation of the people of Gadarene town on the outskirts of which Jesus casts out demons in today’s gospel seems little different from that of the Chinese peasant. Charged by Jesus to leave two wild men, the demons possess a herd of pigs whom they send hurling into the sea. We might expect the people to welcome Jesus for saving two men from a fate worse than Alzheimer’s. But as practical people, they weigh their loss of property as greater than the benefit of having two men restored to their senses and ask Jesus to leave before he causes more financial woe. The people seem curious about who Jesus is and respectful of his powers; nevertheless, they forego any message he might have for them.
It is as easy for us to get caught up with business – even Church business – that we ignore what Jesus has to offer us. It certainly requires patience to listen to his words as they come through the gospel, especially in our world of a ten thousand distractions. We can also be sure his message will demand some sacrifice on our part. But when we open our mind and heart to him, Jesus invariably brings us the tranquility of spirit which the former wild men of the Gadarene territory now possess.