• Text of Gospel Reading
  • In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! This morning, we heard the Gospel reading about the healing of the Gadarene demoniac. When Fr. Michael was here a few weeks ago, he commented that the reading from Luke about the pigs was one of his least favorite Gospels to preach on. And it’s pretty easy to see why. The story really is a fairly bizarre scene in the life of our Saviour. This is one of the few times that we encounter true demonic possession in the Scriptures. As Orthodox Christians, we have to admit and recognize the reality of spiritual beings that want to hurt us. Demons. On the modern scene it’s rather popular to deny both the existence of angels and demons, even among people who acknowledge God and call themselves believers. But the demonic powers play a real role in the pages of the Scriptures. Lucifer was the most beautiful of the angelic powers, but his pride and lust for power cause his fall. He spent his days and nights in the very presence of God, yet he still turned against God and began a rebellion in the heavens. After the rebellion was quashed and Lucifer, now Satan, was banished from heaven, he looked for ways to seek revenge for his defeat. The creation of man offered Satan his ultimate chance—if he could wrest God’s beloved creation from God’s hand, then he could cause more pain than his rebellion in the heavens ever could. And so, the Father’s write, the war between God and Satan now takes place in the hearts and lives of men. God calling men to fulfillment in Himself, and Satan offering us all sorts of temporal delights and passionate pleasures to distract our attention from the Creator. So what can we learn about the operation of the demons from the healing of the man possessed in the Gospel this morning? The demon has chosen to live in the tombs. Not only to torment the poor man who is possessed, but to continually torment the people of the town with the strange events coming from the tombs of their relatives. How fitting that we read this just a few days before Halloween—a day when our society glorifies demons and possession and evil. When Christ approaches the tombs, the demon show both shameless belligerence, and fear. He firstly asks Christ “what have I to do with Thee?” As if to say, this is space, what do you think you’re doing here. Like a child who picks a fight with his parents, knowing he’ll lose, but choosing to fight none the less. The demon immediately follows this affront by begging for mercy, by showing his cowardice. Of course, Christ then commands the demons to leave the man and allows them to enter a herd of nearby swine. Christ has all the power over the demons—they can’t even choose where they want to go after being cast out of the man. So if Christ has all this power over demons, how does the man come to be inhabited by a legion of them? This question boils down to a question we often ask—why is there evil in the world? And more specifically, why does the Lord allow demons to continue to roam the earth and drag His creation into hell? Blessed Theophylact, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, writes, “The Lord permits [the demons] to remain upon the earth in order that they might fight and contend with men and thus make men tested veterans. For if man had no adversaries, there would be no struggles and contests; and if there were no contests, there would be no crowns of victory.” The demons are here so that we can grow, so that we can attain victory. But we fail so often, the reply could be, the demons in fact often cause us to sin. But we know that God will never allow us temptations that we can’t bear; He guarantees that He’ll provide the grace we need to win the victory. We simply choose not to fight a lot of the time—we choose to follow the demon into sin, instead of turning to God and relying on His grace. Anyone who chooses evil and demonic deeds, anyone who chooses the way of sin, invites the demons to come and live in him. This is what happens with all demon possession—whether it’s of the severity of the man healed today, or, what we encounter much more often—people possessed and controlled by their passions. Such a man spiritually lives in the tombs. He’s dead spiritually, filled with the demons of his passions and sins, left in outer darkness to destroy himself. But we don’t have to wind up like that. Christ has won the victory over the demons. He doesn’t even have to speak, and the devils begin to flee. His light destroys all the powers of darkness. To rid ourselves from the demons that assail us, we have only to flee to Christ. To accept the healing, the life, the salvation, that He offers us. And if we love the Lord, if we truly desire this healing, we’ll turn from the acts of sin, and follow in the footsteps of Christ. And then instead of opening our souls to possession by beings that want our destruction, we’ll take refuge under the loving arms of our Heavenly Father, who fills us with His life, and offers us life in His Heavenly Kingdom. Glory to Jesus Christ!