Reading (2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13) Gospel (St. Mark 5:1-20)
In the readings today, we have two points which would be quite unexpected. In the first reading, we hear about this man who comes out cursing David, throwing stones and dirt at him. When David’s soldiers want to go over and kill the man for what he is doing, David simply says, “Leave him alone, because it is God who told him to curse David.” That is not something most of us would usually think about. If there is somebody who does not like us, we tend not to like them and we certainly would tend most often to impute rather unfortunate motives to them. Instead, here is somebody about whom David says, “God told him to curse David.” That is a pretty astounding statement. David simply accepts what this man is doing, probably is pelted with a few rocks along the way, and has all the dirt thrown at him that this man is throwing, as well as his words. Yet David just continues to walk with his head down and to weep, recognizing that because of the sins he himself has committed he probably deserves it. Yet, at the same time, he is able to say, “Perhaps God will make it up to me, or perhaps He will bless me later on because of all this.” Of course, we know that after the situation with Absalom was taken care of, David was restored to his kingship.
So we see that there are things in our lives that happen which are not very pleasant. But remember that nothing happens without God allowing it. Even the things that seem so negative, God allows for a reason, either as in this case with David because of his sins and therefore it is something he himself recognized that he deserved, or whether it is simply to bring about some point of purification for us. If it is going to do something for us in which God will bring about a greater good, then He allows things that seem so negative at the time. Yet when we eventually see what it is He is doing with this supposedly negative thing, we realize that in fact it is something for our own good.
Then we get to the other point, the other astounding one, and it is in the Gospel. Jesus comes to the territory of the Gerasenes. This is a pagan area, so we have these men who are herding the swine and we also have the demoniac among the tombs. As Jesus casts out the demons from this man, they beg Him to go into the swine. And when the people hear about it, they beg Him to leave their territory. What a tragedy!
You have a man with faith recognizing in the first reading that these bad things which are happening are in fact part of God’s Will for him, and here you have pagans who are unable to recognize that the good which just occurred in this man being freed from Satan’s grasp is something that is of God. They look at it as something which is completely negative and beg the Lord to leave their territory. What a tragedy! Again, we see the difference between having faith or not. With faith, we can see that even the bad things which happen in our lives can be turned to good, and that even the negative things can be part of God’s providence for us. Without faith, we cannot even recognize the power of God. When it is demonstrated clearly, rather than rejoicing in it, we tell God to get out. We do not want Him because we have decided that living all for ourselves and by ourselves is more important. So we see this dichotomy that is there.
It is even easy, as we saw in yesterday’s reading, for people with some faith not to want God around. That is, we want Him there to a degree. Remember, even the Israelites begged that they would not hear the voice of God again. Another tragic statement! What a sad thing. Just think, if the Lord were to speak to us and we would say, “I don’t want to hear Your voice.” But why is it that people do not want to hear Jesus? Because He is God. They do not want to hear His voice. The people in the Gerasene territory, they did not want Him in their territory. How much do people not want Him in their lives? “This is my territory and I don’t want You here” is basically their attitude. We do not want to hear His voice and we do not want Him in our lives; that is what happens when we reject God or when we want to do it by ourselves. We want God there in part, at an arm’s distance and not having any authority in our lives. But then if we choose to do things God’s way, we realize it is not all going to be simple and easy. Just like David, with this man cursing him and throwing rocks at him, he sees it all as part of God’s providence and that God brings about a greater good from it.
What we need to do is open our hearts to the Lord. We need to allow the Lord to be at the center of our lives. Then no matter what it is that occurs in our lives, we have to see it as part of God’s providence. Even if it does not seem very good at the time, even if we cannot understand what God is trying to do, it does not matter. It is all part of God’s providence for our good, for our growth in holiness. With that faith, we can keep our focus where it belongs – that is, on God – and to see everything that happens as coming from Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.