(Matthew 8:28-34; 9:1)
In today’s Gospel reading, we are surprised to see the dishonest behavior on the part of the Gergesenes (or Gadarenes) towards Jesus. When Jesus came to their country, he saw two men, possessed by demons, who were the terror of the region. They spread great fear to all, and no one dared pass by. The Lord had compassion and freed them from the demons. When the news was heard, the people of the city came out to meet Jesus. Why? Did they thank Him, Who saved two of their own from evil spirits? Maybe they also wanted to express gratitude to Jesus for bringing peace to the area, where people were once afraid to go? No! It was neither of these. In fact, they all gathered together to force Jesus to leave their lands! They considered him not only unwelcome, but also a danger to their illegal and sinful professional occupations. This is because Mosaic Law did not allow the eating of pork or to feed and market pigs. But we see that there were whole flocks of pigs. When the Gergesenes learned that Jesus allowed the demons to enter the pigs (after being expelled from the men), resulting in their drowning, they were very upset. They were angry over the loss of property, and so they went to drive Jesus away. “Then the whole of the city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they begged him to depart from their region” (verse 34). Such a sorry state for these people! Instead of realizing their sin for breaking the Law and repenting, they became more hardened against God.
This sadly happens with some people, even in our day. They are given the opportunity to approach Christ, to know Him and to taste of His infinite benefits. But if they do not want to stop their sinful works, their dirty professions, their prodigal life, than they are pushing Christ away from their hearts. This is what the Prophet Isaiah said: “the sins of men dwell among them and against God” (Isa 59:2). With this in mind, it is not so strange to see a person who could have been baptized, to deny Christ and become apostates! A great authority on the Holy Bible once said: “You take away sin from the world and you will see that there will be no unbelievers!”
The people of Gergesene (or Gadarene), by pushing Jesus away, deprived themselves of the blessings that Jesus would certainly give to the city. As always, Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). This same suffering and loss comes to those who depart from Christ and His Church. They remain alone and unprotected from the various attacks they will receive from the humiliating devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
My brothers and sisters, there are people who think that just because they accept baptism, go to the Divine Liturgy and offer their prayers that they are in some way compelling God. They do not understand that God does not need thanks, praises, pilgrimages, or anything else. God, as we say in the theological language, is "ἀνενδεής". That is, he does not need anything. He has everything. We need God to strengthen us in our difficulties, to cleanse us from sins, to comfort us in our sorrows, to sanctify us with the Holy Sacraments of our Church and to ultimately receive us in His heavenly Kingdom. Whatever He wants to do is for our own good alone. It is in our own interest to be constantly close to Him, to hear His voice and to follow His steps!