Sunday’s homily on the Gospel (St. Matthew 8:28 – 9:1) was very good. Fr. M’s primary focus was on rejection.
He spoke about the community’s rejection of those who lived amongst the tombs (in the local cemetery). Those tomb dwellers would likely have been lepers, those who were mentally ill, and those who were demon possessed. We would call them homeless people; cast aside by their former community and considered as dead. Why not, then, live among the dead who rest in peace? At least there they had their own community who welcomed them and no clamor from those in the graves. We all want to live in peace, don’t we?
When Christ went to the country of the Gergesenes, he was greeted (in the loosest of terms) by two demon possessed men who lived with the other homeless people amongst the tombs. Fr. M pointed out the request of the demons to be sent into the near-by herd of swine – a food rejected by the Jews being considered unclean. Once possessed, the swine ran into the sea to their death. Here again we see people’s rejection – this time of a food source – of what was considered unclean. The people living in the cemetery and the swine had something in common – rejection.
You can, of course, imagine how angry the swine herders must have been. Keep in mind, the swine herders would have been people who were also considered unclean. After all, they were caring for swine. Their association with the unclean made them unclean in the eyes of the Jews. The herders lost their livelihood, their source of income. I think I’d be pretty angry too. In their anger, they ran into town to tell everyone what happened.
In response, St. Matthew recounts “the whole city” asked, no, begged Jesus to leave. And in His humility, he did as they asked.
Jesus went among the rejected and shunned. He healed them. He sent the demons away. Yet, He Himself was rejected by the whole city.
I need to see Jesus among the least of us and welcome Him….and them. We all have the Image of God in us.
Along this same line, I commend you to Abbot Tryphon’s blog post on Angels Unawares.