Homily of Sunday October 29 th 2023 (Healing of the Geresene man possessed with Legion)
Glory to Jesus Christ! Why is such a highly strange account included in the Gospel? Jesus chooses voluntarily what educates for the coming of the Kingdom of the Father which He is opening to us.
Here, exceptionally, Jesus takes the 12 apostles out of his chosen Galilee where He teaches and heals the sick and performs many other marvels. He takes them across the sea from Galilee to the other side. He manifests to the 12 and to ourselves that there is another side to his encounter with us. In preparation, during the crossing, a storm terrifies the apostles to death, but at their call, Jesus silences the terrible storm, and the 12 say to one another: “Who is He? So much is revealed to us through the ministry in Galilee, we are sharing intimate life with Him... but, behold, we still do not know who Jesus is!” Jesus is thus preparing them to meet with another facet of themselves which they do not know that Jesus visits.
The man whom Jesus encounters on the other side represents each of us under the dominion of unclean spirits. Jesus comes not only to rebuke the unclean spirits of patently possessed persons. In we too, descendants of the fallen Adam, there are unclean spirits that can have dominion over us. Confronted with the power filled presence of Jesus, that unclean facet of ours wants to keep Jesus at a distance, wants to remain untouched, suffice with an exterior confession of Jesus as Son of God the Most High. We all have this anti-social facet, that wants to have a home with nobody, that roams preferentially among the dead, that breaks every bond, every discipline we seek to impose: “I have my own way, so all of you stay away from me.” When Jesus asks: “What is your name?”... When Jesus approaches each one, by this question he offers to freely enter into a one to one relationship. As sign of our acceptance, He wants that we waits for us to give Him freely our personal name. Jesus always acts in this way. So it is when Jesus comes to
us in His all pure Body and Blood, He wants to address us by our personal name. Please forgive priests, such as me, that have little memory and confused memory. Do not hesitate to give me your name just before opening your mouth to receive Jesus. On the contrary, that other facet of ours refuses personal relationship: “My name is legion, my name is multitude”, fleeing all personal encounters.
The anti-social facet of ours triggers the multitude of our “I know”’s. “I know who he is. I know who she is. I know this, I know how, I know what he or she is thinking, etc...”… These are all dead affirmations by which we refuse the mystery of the other one to approach us. So many times in my life, I have been totally surprised, at times astounded, by what came out of a person whom I thought I knew. This “I know, I know” can even be the way we profess the creed at the
Eucharist, then, I am closed the question Jesus triggered during the stormy crossing of the sea:“Who is He? we do not know who He is.” We all have this strange savage facet of ourselves remaining stubbornly in the multitude of our “I know”’s. When Jesus rebukes, it pleads: “At least, let my “I know”’s have home with the swine, have home with those things that people around value. At least I will continue to say: “I know his cat, I know his car, I know his coat,…”. All those “I know”’s are equivalent to residing in swines. At Jesus’ approach, they are hurled down with the worldly values they pretend to know into the abyss of perdition. So what is left?
A man or a woman possessing wisdom, says the Gospel, dressed, open to social relationship, desirous to remain close to the unknowable Jesus, the unknowable mystery of his death and resurrection: “Because I do not know Him, I consider all rubbish so as to, if possible, know a little more of Christ and the power of his resurrection.
Today Paul concludes his epistle to the Galatians: “Nothing but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” What does Paul mean? “The world, infested by unclean spirits, in reality, is nothing else but crucifying Jesus, and I, attached with the unknowable mystery of Jesus crucified opening the Kingdom of the Father, have nothing else to proclaim or manifest to world but: “attach yourselves to this mystery of Jesus Crucified which we will never really know.” If the Creed is not the profession of an “I know”, what is it? St John Chrysostom says: “The creed is the mystical thanksgiving we shall offer in the next life for the wisdom-filled providence of God by which we are saved… The time of the Divine Liturgy is the time of the crucifixion. On account of the cross, I no longer wander in the wilderness, I have come to know the true way. Something all together inexpressible, for Christ said on the cross: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
When the man whom Jesus has freed from the dominion of unclean spirits clings to Jesus, what does Jesus respond: "Return to your home, from now on live homely relationships, and there, recount what God has done for you." Jesus is not only seeking his return to his native house. The man who was such an obscure stranger, goes off now with the strength of Jesus, and sees the whole town as his home. All men and woman around are to meet in a homely relationship. This is the transformation Jesus wants to bring us when he frees us from unclean spirits at each Sunday Divine Liturgy. That is why, after Jesus approaches us and gives us the unknowable gift in our mouths, we are invited to gather together for a homely festive meal in our refectory. We thus imitate today’s hero who proclaims throughout the whole town what Jesus had done for him. He is homely with everybody and extends his homeliness all around, just as God in His Mystery of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is homely and extends his homeliness to every human relationship.
Glory to Jesus Christ!