This Sunday’s parable gives us so much to ponder. The man possessed by demons is far more familiar than we may at first imagine. What takes hold of me so much that I might not take part in my community? What leads me to isolation? What makes me recognize Christ but tell Him to leave me be? We may think of addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography, but so much more can turn us away from others, from Truth and Goodness: a job, a grudge, a social media profile; even a relationship can become an obsession. How easily can we be possessed by the need for more money, regardless of our circumstances? Luke illustrates possession and our systemic fear of addressing it. Through Christ, the tortured man was freed and returned to the community, but not without a cost. The loss of swine was a loss of income. If we imagine pigs as “unclean” as they were to the Jews, then the parable suggests that the social order benefitted from the poor man’s affliction. The people didn’t want Christ there. They preferred their status quo. Nevertheless, Christ asked the man to stay with his community and “tell them what God has done for you.”
This parable is so relevant to our day, when we know how much our privileged societies rely on the structures that impoverish others. If we lived according to Gospel values, global strife, the climate crisis, poverty would certainly be alleviated, but too often, individually we do not want to feel the cost of changes that bring greater equity among rich and poor countries. We are afraid to support governments and leadership that might bring uncomfortable changes. The invasion of Ukraine financially benefits russian supporters, just as North America benefits from cheap labour in countries such as India and China. What can we do? As we go about our lives, we can look to each other for God’s strength to overcome our addictions and leave our “demons”. We can live so that our lives “tell what God has done for us”, remembering always the advice of St Francis: Preach the Gospel—but use words only when absolutely necessary!