Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 11:32-40; Mark 5:1-20)

In the final scene of George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan, the protagonist appears in a dream. She has been convicted of heresy, executed, but then exonerated and even made a saint. She now proposes that she work a miracle and return to her people. But no one in the dream thinks it a good idea. They say that the world is not ready for saints like her. The gospel passage today has a similar conclusion.

Jesus has just resolved one of the Gerasene territory’s biggest problems. The man who was possessed by demons and terrorizing the people now sits as graciously as a butterfly. You would think that the people should thank Jesus and invite him to dinner. But they ask him to leave their area. True, the taming of the strongman did result in the loss of a herd of pigs, but the reason for the people’s desire that Jesus distance himself lies deeper. His evident holiness makes them painfully aware of their own sinfulness. Rather than ask for mercy, they ask that mercy move on.

We may not directly ask Jesus to leave, but our response to Jesus’ presence may be little better. We often refuse to acknowledge him and choose instead to worry about our problems and perhaps curse our rivals. But he is there to cast out the demons in our lives that get us worked up. We only have to open ourselves to him.