Homily for January 30th, 2017: Mark 5: 1-20.
The story we have just heard in the gospel reading is one of the strangest in the New Testament. Jesus heals a man of insanity. He has been living like an animal in a cave. According to the ideas of that day, he is possessed by evil spirits. Jesus drives out the spirits, who enter a herd of wild pigs feeding nearby. The animals rush headlong over a cliff into the lake, and are drowned.
We must leave these bizarre details to the Scripture scholars. Important for us is what happens to the man after his healing. No wonder the man begs Jesus to take him with him. And how crushed he must have been when Jesus refuses and tells him instead: “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
“To my family?" we can imagine the man thinking. Those were the people who had driven him out of his mind in the first place. At home everyone would point him out, whisper about him, laugh at him. What would happen to his new-found sanity and peace of mind then?
With a cold, dead weight on his heart the man watches Jesus and his friends get into the boat. They row out a little way from shore and set the sails. Gradually the boat gets smaller and smaller, until it is only a speck on the horizon. And the man thinks: “Out there is the man who has changed my life: the kindest, the most wonderful man I have ever met.” It must have been a long time before the man finds the courage to turn round and climb the cliff gain, obeying Jesus’ command: “Go home . . . ”
In a few minutes the Lord will give you that same command. Perhaps you’d prefer to stay. How good it is to be with Jesus. It is quiet and peaceful in church at this early morning hour. How difficult it is to return to the rough and tumble of daily life, to the demands that await you as soon as you do return. But return you must. We live not on the mountain tops of great spiritual experiences. Most of life’s journey is spent in the valleys; and for each of us there are times when those valleys are dark. When you must walk in darkness, remember the beautiful words of the most loved of all the 150 psalms, Psalm 23: “Even though I walk in the dark, I fear no evil; for you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”