Elizabeth Simcoe ‘06MAT
Reading today’s Gospel feels a bit like looking at a Chagall painting, a-swirl with cemetery, demoniacs, a herd of swine running into the sea, and villagers chasing Jesus with pitchforks. (Okay, so maybe they didn’t have pitchforks, but they could have.)
What are we to make of this? I suggest that we take each piece and ask where it fits into our own lives.
Where are my tombs? What is my burial place for things I don’t want to own or face? Is Jesus waiting for me there?
Who are the demoniacs in my life? Who are the people I have cast to the margins because they are too difficult or too truthful to live with? Could Jesus be inviting me to listen to them or widen my circle so they can be included?
Or perhaps, it is I who am possessed. What is it that has taken hold of me? Do I dare to ask Jesus to cast it out?
And then there is the swineherd and his or her poor swine. Already an unclean animal in the minds of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries, they are also scapegoats, sacrificed so that others may be healed. Who has given their life so that mine might be better? Have I let them know my gratitude?
Finally, there are the villagers, rushing at Jesus, begging him to leave. They have seen his power and it is too difficult to have him in their midst. Proverbs 7 states, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” The town folk know this and they are honest about their limitations.
In “A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard noted ladies attending Mass in their flowered bonnets. She observed that if they really understood the God upon whom they were calling with their prayers, they would be wearing crash helmets.
How honest am I—how well do I know the God whom I claim to love and serve? Have I domesticated God, locking God into a paradigm I can control? Or dare I let God be God?
“What have you to do with us, Son of God?”