One of the things God has done for me repeatedly is brought me back to the time in my past where great healing occurred or where more is needed. You, Jesus, you walk in our lives from start to finish. Before, during and after the things we do, right or wrong.
Today’s Gospel opens that you “came to the other side.” Reflecting, my mind went to the time before I had a personal relationship with you. This was when I thought of you as just there, somewhere, unapproachable, up in the sky, not part of anything here, but somehow, there. One fall day many years ago, I came face to face with the reality that my life was going to end. I believed there would be two choices to face: heaven or hell. Fear reigned as I wondered how I could be called to heaven with all the regrets and shame I carried in the baggage of my life. Yes, fear motivated me to seek you, fear of dying and finding out, oh, there really is a God and I don’t know him. I was so afraid it was already too late. But when I went to you and repented with a true and sorrowful heart, your mercy poured forth.
Although it would seem that fear is bad, fear led me to face the evil spirits I kept hidden for many years. Evil kept me from you and in the belief I could never come to know you. Evil separated and divided us. But you used what I gave you – fear – to draw the evil out. These demoniacs, although fierce, also appear fearful. They asked if you were to torment them. One might think, how could Jesus torment anyone? How could they even think this? But the added words before the time were included in their question. Before the time of their death? Before judgement day where they knew they would be cast into hell?
Matthew 8:28-34 8 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes,[a] two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”[b] 30 Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
You continue to desire to free me from whatever shame, regret or selfish motives I now hold. My life was disordered because in the past the source of how happiness and peace reigned in me was dictated by my being the source. You helped me to see that all I have, all I am, is because you gave it to me. You are the source of truth and happiness. You gave me this awareness after walking in the vineyard with you. And your mercy still flows in the everyday life of weaknesses, reminding me to carry my cross and be united to you for so many suffering in our world.
Those herdsmen fled where I only want to draw near. I beg you to not leave us but bring us all to see the works of your hands, not ours. I don’t want to return to routine; let us be made new, every day, in your image. As I get older, my desire is to get younger, becoming more like a little child, satisfied with less, but more of you. Oh I still want stuff Lord, I’m weak that way, but now I pause to think more often, will it be pleasing to you? If I am acting more on the part of my gain and not dying to self, casting blame or being critical, please, Father, stop and correct me. Let freedom begin in me and not by judging of my neighbor. Let me not compare who has what or how far along another might be. Help me not to be part of the problem and incur the demons to come, but instead be steadfast in your love and in faithfulness. Together we can work for the good of all and fight against the evil causing division, seen so evidently in society today.
From St Therese of Lisieux
At first sight, it appears easy to do good to souls, to make them love God more, and mold them according to one’s own ideas; but in practice one finds that one can no more do good to souls without God’s help than make the sun shine in the night. Let us be just with each other so we do not cast demons upon them for their self righteous acts or words.