On the Healing of the Two Men Possessed with Devils.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Healing of the Two Men Possessed with Devils.
Gadara, the city of the Gerasens, is situated to the southeast of the sea of Genesareth, on an eminence, at the foot of which hot springs rise. In the contiguous mountains there were a great many caverns hollowed out of the rock, the sepulchres of bygone generations, and those dismal abodes of darkness and death were the resort of two men who were possessed with devils, and who were so “exceeding fierce that none could pass by that way.” (St. Matt. viii. 28.) One Individual, however, Christ Jesus, had no occasion to fear their fury, for He was more powerful than all the legion of devils by whom these two Gerasens were possessed. Imagine that you see our Lord as He draws near to the spot that was regarded with such horror, and to the unhappy maniacs.
1st. Consider first the place where the two men possessed with devils dwelt. It was a place of sepulture, on the declivity of a mountain, in the vicinity of a meadow, where large herds of swine, belonging to the Gerasens, were feeding. Thus Satan delights to tarry in the place of death, spiritual death, which is sin; and there are three kinds of sin in particular in the company of which the devil finds his chief delight, three sins which are indicated to us by the description of the locality, for the mountains are symbolical of the proud, the pasture-land of the avaricious, and the herds of swine feeding there of the unchaste. The pride of life, the concupiscence of the eyes, the concupiscence of the flesh, these are the true offspring of the devil; where they dwell and where they rule, there he loves above all to dwell, there he reigns supreme. Reflect seriously on this, my soul. You feel compassion for the unhappy men who are possessed; the torment, the unrest of their condition excites your pity. But perhaps you may be in the same deplorable state of disquiet and restlessness, driven about and tormented by the demon of pride which renders you as much to be shunned by your fellow men as the two who were possessed were by the Gerasens; or you may be dominated by the demon of concupiscence, concupiscence of the eyes or of the flesh, and may dwell, may have long dwelt, like those men whom you commiserate, in the place of sepulture, of spiritual death, amongst the graves where the graces of your state, your peace of mind lie buried. O hasten this very day to Jesus, who alone can rescue you, and pray for those of your fellow Religious, of your fellow Christians, who are now exactly in the condition of these unfortunate Gerasens.
2d. Consider the malice of the devils. They knew, they had a presentiment that the mighty God of Israel would drive them out of what had till then been their abode, and therefore they besought the Lord to permit them to enter into the herd of swine. As they could no longer do any harm to the bodies of the Gerasens, they would at least do their utmost to injure their property. Besides they thus argued: If the herds belonging to the inhabitants are destroyed, these covetous people, embittered by the loss they have sustained, will no longer vouchsafe a hearing to Him who comes to proclaim to them the Gospel of salvation. Behold, my soul, the malice and craft of these fallen spirits, and consider that as God in His whole being is charity, so the devil’s whole being is one of hatred; and while God is only concerned in manifesting to us His fatherly loving kindness, so the devil is wholly set upon our perdition. Wherever he possibly can he does us harm, “With the delight of hell he heaps misfortunes on those who are beloved of God, in as far as the Most High in His wisdom gives him liberty to do so. What calamities, what misery he brought upon holy Job; how terribly the saints have suffered from his demoniacal assaults! Think of this malice and hatred of the evil one in order to conceive a thorough and radical abhorrence of him; but at the same time bear in mind that Satan is only able to molest the children of God to the extent that God sees right, and he cannot prevail against them as long as they resist his assaults. Stand steadfast therefore in the conflict with the devil, and beware especially lest in seasons of temporal affliction, loss, sickness, you further his designs by murmuring, impatience and irritation.
3d. Consider the conduct of the Gerasens. Apart from the great benefit which our Lord had conferred on their two fellow countrymen by driving out the devils, He had consented to the appalling spectacle of the destruction of the herds of swine, for the purpose of giving evidence to the Gerasens on the one hand of His gracious and merciful power to heal and save, which He had exercised on behalf of the two who were possessed, and on the other hand to reveal to them, in a manner which they would feel, the malice of the spirits of hell and their delight in the work of destruction. Both of these things ought to have been a motive with the Gerasens, urging them to seek salvation from Him who had shown Himself to possess such irresistible power over the spirits of evil. But what was the effect of what had occurred? They did indeed fear the omnipotent Judge who brought condign punishment upon their unlawful avarice, the Jews being forbidden to eat the flesh of swine, but His presence aroused in them no better sentiment; they were too deeply immersed in the pursuit of material interests to rise to the height of loving Him, and eagerly accepting the salvation He offered them. The Evangelist tells us “the whole city went out to meet Jesus, and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart from their coasts.” (v. 34.) What a sad, what an awful request! Dwell in thought, my soul, on this depth of human depravity. The loss of their swine is a far greater calamity in their eyes than the loss of God. The creature is more to them than the Creator. They care more for the flesh of swine than for the Bread of Life. Unhappy Gerasens! Yet ask yourself, my soul, do you not do much the same as they did? They besought the Lord that He would depart from them, but you do more; by your grievous sins you drive Him away roughly and cruelly.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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