Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have two highly dramatic passages in which a lot of people are annoying one another! If there were an Oscar category for “Best Biblical Drama”, these stories would definitely be nominees!
In our ongoing “David Saga”, the troubled king flees Jerusalem because his own son Absalom is plotting to overthrow him. David, at this point in time, is humbled and not a little wearied by the theatrics of his life. His sins continue to haunt him and wreak a recompense.
In today’s passage, we meet Shimei who has his own little miniseries going on in the Bible. Shimei is part of Saul’s family and holds David responsible for Saul’s demise. When meeting David in this passage, Shimei dangerously, and we might say stupidly, sets on him, throwing dirt and stones at the King. David prevents the troops from responding to the wildly outraged man. David even suggests that God may be trying to teach David something in the attack.
In our Gospel, we meet another wildly outraged man. This one is tormented by his inner demons, causing him also to put himself in dangerous situations. Jesus names this man’s tormentor and casts it out, giving the man control of himself again.
Have you ever been so offended, humiliated or injured that you felt outrage for yourself or another? Such fury chains us, making rationality and reconciliation close to impossible. Sometimes, it renders us impotent to name and address the deep source of our indignation.
Instead, we lash out with stones of anger or passive aggression – throwing the dirt of condemnation rather than seeking inner balance and healing.
Most of us have encountered large or small “dementors” in our life.
(Thanks for the term AND the image, Harry Potter)
But when I think of those who have endured unbelievable degrees of torment, I am amazed at their stories of faith and resolution: Anne Frank, Victor Frankel, Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman …. Jesus Christ. How did they come through it whole and blessed?
Maybe the possessed man in Mark’s Gospel was just lucky that day to run into Jesus. Or maybe he sought out Christ, trying to find stability in the midst of his derangement.
When we face our own imbalances can we stay still long enough to ask, as David did, “What is God teaching me in this. How can this lead me closer to God?” If we could, might we not be surprised to see our demons named, cast into the greater sea of God’s eternal wisdom, peace and love?
Poetry: Matthew VIII, 28 Fr. – Richard Wilbur
This poem, spoken by the residents of Gadara or Gerasa, imagines that they are more interested in their commerce than in miracles. They’re pretty disturbed about their pigs too
Rabbi, we Gadarenes
Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
Love, as You call it, we obviate by means
Of the planned release of aggressions.
We have deep faith in properity.
Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
Is palpably non-essential.
It is true that we go insane;
That for no good reason we are
possessed by devils;
That we suffer, despite the amenities
At all but the lowest levels.
We shall not, however, resign
Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
If You cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
We had rather You shoved off.
Music: Set My Spirit Free – Maranatha Singers