Lectio Divina: Mark 5:1-20
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
help us to love You with all our hearts
and to love all people as You love them.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 5: 1-20
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" (He had been saying to him, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!") He asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "Legion is my name. There are many of us." And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, "Send us into the swine. Let us enter them." And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened. As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, "Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you." Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
• In today’s Gospel, we meditate on a long text on the expulsion of a devil which was called Legion which oppressed and tortured a person. Today there are many people who use the texts of the Gospel which speak of the expulsion of the devils or impure spirits in order to frighten others. This is a sin! Mark does the opposite. As we will see, he associates the action of power of evil to four things: a) With the cemetery, the place of the dead. Death which kills life! b) With the pork which was considered an unclean animal. The impurity which separates from God. c) With the sea, which was considered a symbol of the chaos which existed before creation, and a chaos which destroys nature . d) With the word Legion, a name given to the army of the Roman Empire - the empire which oppressed and exploited people. Jesus overcomes the power of evil in these four points. The victory of Jesus had a very great outreach for the community of the years 70’s, the time in which Mark wrote his Gospel. These communities lived under persecution by the Roman Legions, with an ideology which manipulated the popular beliefs concerning the devils in order to frighten people and to obtain their submission.
• The power of evil oppresses, ill-treats and alienates people. The initial verses describe the situation of the people before the arrival of Jesus. In the way of describing the behavior of the possessed person, Mark associates the power of evil to the cemetery and to death. It is a power without any purpose, threatening, without control, and destructive, which makes everybody afraid. It deprives the person of conscience, of self control, and of autonomy.
• In the presence of Jesus the power of evil disintegrates itself and breaks into fragments. In his description of the first contact between Jesus and the possessed man, Mark stresses the total lack of proportion that exists! The power, which at the beginning seemed to be very strong, melts and is broken. It is fragmented before Jesus. The man falls on his knees, asks not to be expelled from that district and finally says its name is Legion. With this name, Mark associates the power of evil with the political and military power of the Roman Empire which dominated the world through its Legions.
• The power of evil is impure and has neither autonomy nor consistency. The devil has no power in its movements. He only manages to enter into the pigs with the permission of Jesus! Once he had entered into the pigs, they charged down the cliff into the sea. There were 2000! According to the people the pig was a symbol of impurity, the impurity which prevented the human being from entering into relationship with God and from feeling accepted by Him. The sea was the symbol of chaos which existed before creation and which, according to the belief of the time, threatened life. This episode of the pigs which threw themselves into the sea is strange and difficult to understand, but the message is sufficiently clear: before Jesus the power of evil has no autonomy nor consistency. The one who believes in Jesus has already overcome the power of evil and should not be afraid, should have no fear!
• The reaction of the local people. On the advice of the herdsmen who took care of the pigs, the people of the place ran to see the man who had been liberated from the power of evil, now “in his full senses”. But the Legion had entered the pigs! And for this reason they ask Jesus to leave. For them, in fact, the pigs were more important than the human person who had just returned to his normal self. Those pigs also had a large economic value to the local people. The same thing happens today: we often give very little importance to people. It frightens people to be given the choice to give up wealth for the peace of Christ.
• To announce the Good News means to announce “what the Lord has done for you!” The man who was liberated wanted to “follow Jesus,” but Jesus tells him, “Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in His mercy has done for you.” Mark addressed this phrase of Jesus to the communities and to all of us. For the majority of us “to follow Jesus” means, “Go to your house, to your people, and announce to them what the Lord has done for you!”
4) Personal questions
• Which point of this text pleased or struck you the most? Why?
• The man who was cured wanted to follow Jesus. But he should remain at home and tell everybody what Jesus has done for him. What has Jesus done for you? Do you want to share this with others?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh, what quantities of good things
You have in store for those who fear You,
and bestow on those who make You their refuge,
for all humanity to see. (Ps 31:19)