In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit,
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel we hear of our Lord Jesus Christ’s encounter with the two demon possessed men in the country side of the Gergesenes.
We do not know why these men are possessed by demons. We only know the results of the possession. We see their anger with God and their fellow man in the words of the Gospel saying “coming out from the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way.” (Matthew 8:28)
Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic observes that “Men work unrighteousness against God and so they are angry with God.” All too often people will sin against God or their fellow man and blame God for the consequences of their actions.
All sin is rooted in the inappropriate use of our self will. When we sin we either place ourselves above God or above our fellow man. In doing so, we enter into a dissonant state. We are out of harmony with God and creation. In the worst cases of a sinful life the person becomes so out of harmony with God and creation no one wants to be near that person or to use the words of the Gospel they become “exceedingly fierce.”
In the most severe cases the thought comes to the person to deny the existence of God. They say to themselves “If there was truly a God this would not have happened to me!” They do not see the consequences they are experiencing are a result of their own actions. In a sense they try to silence God in their lives and the lives of others.
However this does not work. They often reach a point of despair and cry out “God Help Me!!!” This is because in trying to silence God His truth is proclaimed. It says this in the Gospel of Saint Luke when the leaders of the Jewish people are trying to silence the children as our Lord is entering Jerusalem “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Or as it further says in the Psalms “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
If the soul does not reach this point of despair, crying out for God’s help, then sprits of evil will take possession of the soul to fill the void left by the lack of God. This is what happened in the case of these two men.
The demons or fallen angels have utter contempt for man. They wish to destroy the crown of God’s creation man because man is created in created in God’s image and likeness. This is because the demons were once close to God before their fall. Their leader was one of the brightest and closest angles to God. It describes his fall in the Prophecy of Isaiah “How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground…Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14: 12,15) The demons want to bring man down so that he may suffer in the same manner as them. The demons are out to destroy every man. Saint Paul refers to his struggle with the demons as “a thorn in the flesh.” (II Corinthians 12:7)
We can see the lack of concern for God and the men by demons in today’s Gospel when they say “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29)
In this response to Jesus we see two things. The first is the incompatibility of a life with God and that with evil. Saint Paul reminds us of this when he said to the Corinthians “what concord has Christ with Belial?” (II Corinthians 6:15)
The second is that the demons already know the results of their rebellion against God. They know the torment that awaits them. The prophet Isaiah describes this torment in the following way he, Lucifer, will be “cast out of your grave like an abominable branch,… that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.” (Isaiah 14:19). Our Lord further testified to this when He said in the Gospel of Saint Luke “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)
This same end that awaits the demons will come to the man that is an unrepentant sinner. Our Lord tells us of this when he describes the awesome and fearful Last Judgment in the Gospel of Saint Matthew “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)
Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic points out in his commentary on this Gospel that that the demons never mention the men when they say “If you cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” (Matthew 8:31) because the men are dead to the demons. Saint Nikolaj goes on to say “They did not want to leave the man; they would have infinitely rather have stayed in him then go into the swine…While the demons can make men like swine, and far worse than swine, what can they make of swine?……They will through the swine, go on doing man harm; if in no other way then by drowning the swine and provoking men’s fury against God.”
Then why does our Lord allow the demons to enter the swine? Saint John Chrysostom answers this question in the following way “One, to teach them that are delivered from those wicked tyrants, how great the malice of their insidious enemies: another, that all might learn, how not even against swine are they bold, except He allow them; a third, that they would have treated those men more grievously than the swine, unless even in their calamity they had enjoyed much of God’s providential care. For that they hate us more than the brutes are surely evident to every man. So then they that spared not the swine, but in one moment of time cast them all down the precipice, much more would they have done so to the men whom they possessed, leading them towards the desert, and carrying them away, unless even in their very tyranny the guardian care of God had abounded, to curb and check the excess of their violence. Whence it is manifest that there is no one, who does not enjoy the benefit of God’s providence. And if not all alike, nor after one manner, this is itself a very great instance of providence; in that according to each man’s profit, the work also of providence is displayed.”
The result of casting out of these demons is that the town’s people see the two men in their right minds healed and their swine destroyed. They cannot see the miracle that just happened. All they can see is the destruction of the swine. They do not see how much God valued these men or any man. Our Lord reminds us of our value to Him when He says “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear you not therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:30-31)
So my dear brothers in sisters in Christ know that you are under attack by the demons that wish to drag you down with then into the abyss of hell which they created for themselves; know that you can create this same hell for yourself and know that God is there to save you from the abyss of hell because you are the crown of His creation created in His image and likeness.
Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 5th Sunday after Pentecost 2009.