USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew,
When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes,
two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him.
They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.
They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God?
Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”
Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding.
The demons pleaded with him,
“If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.”
And he said to them, “Go then!”
They came out and entered the swine,
and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea
where they drowned.
The swineherds ran away,
and when they came to the town they reported everything,
including what had happened to the demoniacs.
Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus,
and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Good News Reflection: Stop living in the tombs
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus delivers two men from the imprisonment of a deadly life: from the tombs not only of their dwelling place but of their hearts. Before Jesus came along, do you think they felt lonely in their graveyard dwellings?
Let me ask you this: Have you ever seen people try to fill their inner emptiness without God? They try to cure loneliness by filling their lives with money, promiscuity, addictions, workaholism or some other “ism.” It’s an indication of a deeply rooted, often hidden fear that they are unloved and unlovable. This fear is so painful that they anesthetize themselves with alcohol or busyness or whatever can distract them from feeling what’s deep inside.
UnGodly choices separate people from God, and this causes soul-felt loneliness, which no human can completely soothe.
Conversely, when a person turns to God, divine love is now able to fill every hole, even the empty places vacated by people who’ve abandoned them. But this is only accomplished within community life. That’s why, whenever Jesus delivered someone from their personal hells, he sent them back into community life.
And yet, even church-going Christians feel lonely. Why? We’re never alone, because God is always with us and we’re surrounded by people in every Mass. But that’s never enough. He created us in his Triune image with a need for fellowship. We experience incompleteness when we seek communion with God without letting him love us through community.
Since we cannot physically feel his hugs or hear his voice, communing with God alone is never sufficient. We only receive all that we need when we turn to God first and then let him minister to us through the human relationships he has given us within the Church family.
The degree to which Christ-centered believers feel lonely is the degree to which they do not avail themselves of God’s community. Christ has many friends and he wants to share some of them with us. Going to church and worshipping God in community isn’t enough. We need to nurture on-going and growing relationships with other members of the Body of Christ.
Our tombs are the closed-in, sealed-off areas of our hearts where life in the Spirit of God has died because we haven’t let Jesus minister to us through others. Every healing that we need, every torment and problem we pray to overcome has Christian community as part of the solution. Jesus wants to deliver us from the tombs of individualism, divisiveness, and a self-sufficiency that goes too far.
Jesus is calling you to come out of the tombs. Let him free you from the old ideas and behaviors that have limited your relationships with his friends.
My Lord: Grant me the grace of not dwelling on my past, so that it doesn’t prevent me from recognizing You as alive, next to me. I want to look at You and follow You, building my new life in You. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica