Mid-week Reflection – The Story (Matthew 8:28-34) [1st July 2020]
Hi everybody and I’m glad to meet again for a new mid-week reflection. Today I will start our reflection with a story. It’s a little sad, but it is part of what’s going on around us. Here is the story.
He was not a poor man. He had more property than many of his neighbours. But he heard that in a country from the setting sun, a lot of money can be made in a very short time. He saw many of his poor neighbours go to that country to make money. From time to time they come back with some money and buy or build something else. And leave again. He decided to leave to become richer. He thought that if those poor people could make money there, he – who knew how to make a fortune at home – would make a lot more money if he went there. He decided to leave and become even richer than was. He kissed his little girl and boy on the forehead, said goodbye to his wife and left. Because he was well skilled, he found work quickly and was well paid. But he considered that he had to pay too much money to live in a house, even if it was shared with others who lived there. He decided to buy a tent and set it up under a bridge. Then he saw that food was also a reason to spend money. He decided to buy the cheapest food so that he could raise as much money as possible. Under that bridge he was not alone. There were also poor people who had no choice but to live there. One morning, those people noticed that the man in the tent had not gone to work. They checked what he was doing and found him very ill. They told about the man in the tent to one of those who came to give them medicine, clothes and food from time to time. He realized that the man in the tent was very ill and he advised him to agree to go to the doctor. The man in the tent asked for only one favour: to help him go to the airport and return home. He returned home with a lot of money, but doctors in his country found that he had stomach cancer due to insufficient and poor quality food. In the last moments before his death, his wife told him: we had everything we needed. I didn’t want more. You and my children were my joy. You have chosen to take part of this joy from me: to die. The money you brought me will not replace you.
The above story seems impersonal and not at all a fact that can happen near us. The truth is that for me, the man in the tent has a name and a face, the bridge has left a shadow in my mind, and the place is a city that I know so well. So it’s not a story, it’s a chronicle of a real person’s end of life.
The Gospel text taken as the basis for our reflection is an excerpt from Matthew, chapter 8, verses 28 to 34. It is about the story of the devils sent by Jesus in the flock of pigs. Why do I refer first to pigs and not to the two possessed by devils sent to possess the pigs?
The Gadarenes, from whose city were the two possessed by the devils, were Jews. Their city was on the border between the territory where the Jews lived and the pagan people. For them, pigs were unclean animals, but they knew that by raising them and selling them to the surrounding peoples, they could earn a lot of money. As Jews they were waiting for the Messiah to save them from all the evil they had experienced in their history. They have heard of Jesus preaching, healing and casting out demons. They have heard that many Jews say of him that he is the expected Messiah. And now this Jesus has come near to their city. They also knew the two possessed by devils, who haunted their cemeteries and the roads around the city. They knew that this was a visible sign that evil controlled their world. They were waiting for the time when this would change. They prayed for this in their synagogue and in their houses: for the Messiah to come and deliver them from evil and enemies. But until then they needed money and goods and raised pigs for it.
And Jesus came. He started with the devils who controlled the two people in their city. Jesus was near their city. And he sent the devils out of the two men into pigs, whom they all considered unclean. And the pigs died. And they first discovered that the pigs had died, then that Jesus had freed the two possessed by devils.
They saw that the two were totally changed and listened to Jesus. Their world was no longer the same. It started to change. The first sign of change was that the two possessed by the devils have now been returned to their families and cities. The second sign is that change is beginning to affect their lifestyle. The pigs, which they considered unclean, were also eliminated. From this moment on, they must choose: to accept to change their lifestyle so that Jesus comes closer to them, or to remain the same, keeping Jesus away. And they chose: he kept Jesus away. They chose to delay God’s love for a way of life.
The man in our story, the Gadarenes, under any circumstances were well prepared to survive, but they failed to enjoy what was most important. The man in our story has taken a break from enjoying the love of his children and wife to become richer, forgetting that he can never know if he will have the same gift in the future. The Gadarenes, waiting for the Messiah, did everything they knew to make their lives easier. They made all sorts of compromises. They raised pigs for money. And they got used to it. The coming of Jesus was a too difficult challenge. They were not ready. They missed the moment.
I am convinced that you have found the connection with our time. We were given or were forced to change our habits, living more isolated, due to a deadly virus. We reflected in the peace of our homes on our lives, our relationships, our past and our possible future. We understood that we need to change some of our habits. We reflected that our lives will not be the same at all. We thought that we would start to be different: more attentive, open to the needs of others, lovers, sociable, etc. We have had time to understand the injustices of our world, to denounce them. We decided that this could not continue.
Now, slowly, the time has come to put into practice what we have reflected. We started to leave our homes, to meet, to be together. Weren’t we too used to our way of life before? The time we prayed for, the good days are here, close to us. Are we ready for them?
(Revd. Bernard Noghiu – Sothend on Sea, 30th of June 2020)