Swine and Demons

by Fr. Gerard Saguto, FSSP.

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark, after a stormy night on the sea, our Lord and the Apostles land on the shore of the Gerasens.

Although these people traded with the surrounding areas, they kept to themselves for the most part. Upon landing, Christ encounters a man possessed for a long time by an unclean spirit whose name is Legion, “for we are many”. Quite the spectacle and menace to anyone who passed by.

The Miracle of the Gaderene Swine, 1883 Briton Riviere.

The demons, in agony before Christ and forced to homage Him, mysteriously beg our Lord that He not send them back into the abyss before it is time, and instead ask to inhabit a herd of swine grazing in a nearby field.

Christ permits it, and the next thing we see are thousands of swine hurtling themselves off the cliff into the sea and drowning.

This must have been quite the show, especially for the swineherds, who perhaps had caught notice of the boat mooring on the shore and then watched in curiosity, in hopes of being entertained by its passengers running into the demoniac of the caves.

But the man was liberated, after enduring many years of torment, and that should have been a cause for some celebration.

The freak show was over; this mysterious man named Jesus had freed him. God be praised! And the man was most grateful.

Nonetheless, in those few short minutes our Lord had effectively upset the flow of life for the Gerasens – and this was a problem.

Time was going to be needed to pick up the pieces. To them it was better had Christ never come. And so an embassy is sent to Him, politely requesting that He depart.

Our Lord puts up no resistance, but insists that the man He just healed remain as a living testimony to Him, to dispose them for a future visit, whenever that might be.

While we can somewhat understand why things ended the way they did here, it can still be baffling to think that these people preferred their swine and demons over Christ.

For them, it was better that way, even if it was to their immediate and substantial loss, of which they were incapable of realizing.

In His efforts, Christ, who makes no mistakes, seemed to have been defeated (again).

Only one, the man Christ liberated, was ready to keep Him around. That is because the man was conscious of the work Christ had performed, understood it, and was grateful for it. As far as this person was concerned, there was no contest, and the decision was obvious; swine and demons were absurd commodities.

But now he still was to live among those who wanted swine and demons.

Imagine the disappointment. Yet the directive came from our Lord Himself – he had to comply.

How would he convince people like this that the swine and demons are not the gold and silver they believe them to be? How are those who think they have a right to swine and demons convinced that these are not really rights, but paths of slavery and perdition? How are those who prefer the immediate gratifications that come with swine and demons ever expected to deny themselves and realize that the happiness Christ promises is worth selling all?

The plain fact is that many probably will not.

But some will dispossess themselves, by the grace of God, on account of the walking witness Christ left among them, and whose faith would never waver. Christ found a follower in someone who, in human terms, should never have followed. We all fall into that category in some way.

The world prefers demons and swine, and it will be really ugly at times.

Christ came to give it the only way out. Like this man, we are liberated from them by our baptisms from the Cross.

And like this man, in season and out of season, we are commissioned to live in the world as it is and to be the walking witnesses of Christ Crucified to prepare it for His arrival again, whenever that may be.

November 9, 2020