In one of the Sunday Gospel readings we hear of the healing of a man possessed by demons, who lived in the country of the Gadarenes. This possessed man suffered for many years, and his illness even caused him to terrorize the citizens of that land.
When the demons that possessed this wretched man saw the Lord Jesus Christ approaching, they cried out, asking the Lord to simply let them go out of the man and allow them to enter a herd of swine. The Lord let them do so. But what happened next? Even the swine could not tolerate such demonic possession, and so they committed suicide by throwing themselves into the lake and drowning.
But this is not the point of the Gospel reading. Most important – and most terrible – was that which happened afterwards, that which was done by the inhabitants of the land. They came out to meet the Lord… not to invite Him to stay with them, nor to listen to His wondrous teaching, nor to thank Him for healing their wretched compatriot, from whom they themselves had suffered. Not at all. They came to ask Him to go away from them.
Here we must ponder carefully – are we not just like those Gadarenes? The event described in the Gospel took place nearly 2,000 years ago. We may well think that people are different now. But if we look closely, we shall see that we have not changed all that much in our relation to God, in our spiritual condition.
The Gadarenes became angry at the Lord over the loss of their swine, which were the source of their profit, their wealth. That was all they could think about. They were not gladdened at all by the great miracle of their compatriot being healed of demonic possession. And the fact that they asked the Lord to go away from them demonstrates to us their complete indifference to spiritual salvation.
Yet we, in our enlightened 21st century, find ourselves in a similar state! Every person living on earth has to work, has to fulfill his obedience. But if our work turns into a pursuit of wealth, and if thoughts of this wealth begin to dominate our minds at the expense of spiritual salvation, then we become quite similar to those Gadarenes. We chase the Lord away from us.
This, of course, is a visible similarity. But there is also an invisible one. Let us think – how many of us are in church for the vigil on Saturday nights? How many of us come to the vigil on the eve of major feasts? People find all kinds of excuses why they could not come to the evening service – some are tired, others are busy, still others just have no time. But is this not the same as saying: “Go away from us?”
In church the Lord Himself is with us. The Lord Himself, Who had healed the man possessed by demons, heals all of us – heals our illnesses, our afflictions, our sorrows. Just like the possessed Gadarene, after being healed, sat at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, so we, when we come to church, clothe our-selves in salvation and acquire a spiritually sound mind.
And how important it is to have a spiritually sound mind and to always be with the Lord! The Gospel reading about the rich man and Lazarus clearly shows us that those attributes of the soul with which we live in this world will be surely transferred with us into the next world. The rich man, for example, was used to having all that he wanted in this life, was accustomed to ordering people around, and in this precise state of mind he passed into eternity. So we see him, even in hell, expecting to have his wishes fulfilled and issuing commands even to Abraham himself.
This holds true for us, too – whatever we live with in this life, this is what we will take with us into eternity. Therefore, we should make every effort, while we still have the time and the opportunity, not to chase the Lord away from us with our spiritual indifference and our neglect of church services, but rather to follow the example of the man formerly possessed by demons, who sat at the feet of Jesus in his right mind. Amen.