After Jesus cast out legion demons from someone, the demons entered a herd of swine. As a reaction to having the demons enter, the entire herd ran off a cliff and drowned. The demons were so violent and oppressive, the swine just couldn’t handle the presence of so many demons. Demons have a nasty effect on people, but there is always a limit to their abilities.
During the exorcism prayers of every baptism, the Church recalls this Gospel story, as the demons are cast out of the new infant or adult who is seeking to join themselves to Christ. The demons are obligated to obey the Church and depart, just as they were obligated to depart from the young man in Gospel. So if demons have been cast out of our lives at our baptism, why does the Church offer this Gospel story? In the story, the man from whom the demons were cast out glorified God, but the same cannot be said for the owners of the swine, and the town folk.
“Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.” (Luke 8.37) For the town folk, it was easier for them to witness the young man completely tormented by demons, than to lose the money they had invested in the swine. They had grown comfortable with their fellow citizen being tormented, but could not tolerate losing their investments. They had become so greedy; the presence of God was more of a torment for them than the torment of demons on their fellow human being.
The same can be said about our life today, and the work of the Church. We have become very comfortable in our daily lives and the ‘creature comforts’ that we surround ourselves with. When we are approached by the Church to consider increasing our giving to the Church, so that ministries may continue and that people can be offered hope and relief from their struggle, we are torn between holding onto our comfort, and letting go of comfort for the sake of others.
In today’s Gospel, the crowd chose their comfort over their fellow human beings. They chose greed. Don’t be like the crowd. Don’t let greed send Christ away.