“In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst babel . . . speak the truth.” These words were written by William Stringfellow over 40 years ago and they pretty much summarize the message of today’s gospel reading.
In the face of a living death, the man was released to live “humanly” (what a marvelous word). In the face of the chaos that “Legion” had created in his soul, the Word (Jesus, the incarnate Word) brought release and peace. And in the face of the babel of unbelief and rejection, the man was empowered to speak the truth to his fellow countrymen.
I have often said that the miracles of Jesus are parables in action. Certainly that is true today. But today the lesson is deeper. We, every one of us, is a parable – a parable of the Word, a parable of what Jesus brought into the world. When we are captive to our thoughts and are easily tempted to be something we don’t want to be, we become parables of the fall. When we rise above our thoughts and temptations, we become parables of the liberation that Jesus brought into the world.
Jesus brought this power of liberation… to the man whose name was “Legion”; and also to us who hear the gospel story here in the Liturgy. We are all “possessed” in one way or another – hopefully not by demons, but certainly by the concerns of daily life and by the anxieties brought on by our captivity to the values imposed upon us by today’s mass society. And yes, there is evil waiting at the door to ensnare any one of us, and we need protection from that evil. The Lord’s Prayer concludes with precisely that need: deliver us from evil, or the evil one!
The gospel today calls every one of us to live fully, passionately, “humanly”! Then joy and peace replace any “legion” of fears and anxieties in our lives. And we become parables of the Word.
(The text version above is a condensed version of my sermon today, October 25th. The audio file below is complete.)