How many of us prefer to ignore the demons in our lives? When I’m talking about demons, I’m talking about certain passions we can’t we get under control? Our temper. Our pride. Our anger. Our greed. Our lust. Our laziness. What about certain addictions or daily habits that control us? It’s so easy to get used to many of these demons and to simply accept certain habits as a part of who we are.
Today’s Gospel story challenges us on this topic. Do we prefer to ignore the demons in our lives, or are we willing to allow Christ to come in and change us?!? Think about the story we heard earlier in the Gospel:
Jesus encounters two men tormented by demons. The demons made these men so violent and fierce, they lived outside of society among the tombs. Christ happens to pass by their way, and when He meets the men, He casts the demons out of them and sends them into a herd of swine, who run down the hill and drown in a lake. When the herdsmen of the pigs see this, they run back into the town and tell all the townspeople what happened. And here comes the really interesting point of this story! The entire town comes out to meet Jesus, and to see the demon-possessed men who are now in their right mind, dressed and sitting in peace next to Jesus, and when they see this, they beg Jesus to leave their area!
Can you believe that?!? The townspeople knew these men whose lives had been destroyed by whatever demons controlled them. These men were actually living among the tombs, outcasts of society. Maybe they had terrorized the townsfolk at some point. Surely their families had been shamed by their behavior. These men were pathetic, broken, and lost human beings. That is, until Jesus decides to intervene. He confronts the demons themselves, and frees these men, restoring their sanity and giving them new life, new hope!
The townsfolk must have been amazed when they saw these lost men now sane, sitting and clothed in their right mind. A miracle had saved these men from their demons. A miracle had given them new life.
Yet the reaction of the townfolk is to beg Jesus to leave!
WHY? How is that possible? Why would they want Jesus to leave? How couldn’t they demand that Jesus stay with them in their village that night and heal others who were sick?!?
Were they afraid that Christ might start looking carefully at their own lives and notice the “demons” each one of them struggled with? Were they afraid to confront their own demons? Or were they too comfortable with whatever demons, whatever passions, whatever addictions were so imbedded in their lives?
Think about some of the demons that we all accommodate in our lives:
- The demons of anger and bitterness towards certain people
- The demons of hatred that often come out of our ignorance and an unwillingness or stubborness to learn and grow
- The demons of our arrogance and pride, which reveal themselves in countless ways
- The demon of unforgiveness, not forgiving someone for whatever hurt they have done to us, and instead holding on to a stubborn grudge
- The demons of greed and a desire for either more and more money and possessions, or a desire for easy, quick money from the lotteries and casinos
- Or what about the demons of lust, which flaunts itself throughout our society destroying marriages, homes, and the hearts of countless people (especially through the easy access to online pornography)
These are only a few of the many demons that attack us and try to keep us in bondage.
The question, today, is whether we want to confront the demons in our lives, and will we invite Christ and His Church to help us overcome them, to cast them out.
Remember when Jesus met the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, and he asked the man, “Do you want to be made well?” This is a similar question I am asking each one of us today, “Do we want to address whatever demons we have within, and do we want to be made well?”
Will we accept Christ to stay with us and set us free? Here lies the Good News of our faith – good news about who we are and what we are; good news about the creative and divine love that lives within us! No demons, whether in the form of evil vices, bad habits or distorted obsessions or addictions, can ever change the essence of who we are – beloved children created in God’s image! And when we reclaim who we are, and who our heavenly Father watching over us is, we can than unleash the strength needed to live out our original identity and to defeat the demonic powers wrestling for our souls.
Think about some of the inspiring promises we read in Holy Scripture – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In Christ, “I have overcome the world.” “If anyone is in Christ, we are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Our Lord said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is, who was, who is to come, the Lord Almighty.” This Almighty Lord is Lord of all creation, including Lord of our lives. Nothing – no demon, nor demonic influence, nor legion of demons can stand in His way.
When we allow Christ to truly live in us, we discover a Power greater than any demon or vice, habit or obsession or addiction that may seem so overwhelming. Christ, the Almighty One, is ready to cast out whatever demons assail us in the depths of our soul. And even those ingrained demonic forces which have controlled us for years, Christ can call them out and give us new life!
Let me conclude with the encouraging words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Each one of us can access this power of God within our own lives and begin a process of healing and renewal! Demons in whatever form no longer need to control our lives! Here lies the essence of Christ’s Good News – a promise to liberate us from all that controls us! May we all find the courage to ask Christ to stay with us, not to imitate the villagers who asked Him to leave. Stay with us, open up our hearts and minds and free us from all the demons that try to control us!