Do you have a favorite Gospel? I don't know if I can answer that question myself. There are things that I like about each of the Gospels and each of them have unique stories or parables that aren't found in the others. So I have to admit, I don't have a favorite. Yet, going through Mark's Gospel these days in the weekday readings at Mass, I find myself admiring the concreteness of the details I find there.
For example, I find today's Gospel, Mark 5: 1-20, the story of the Gerasene demoniac, particularly vivid. I can just picture the poor man "crying out and bruising himself with stones." I can picture the terrified villagers trying to restrain him with chains and shackles which he pulls apart and smashes. I've often thought of this scene in conjunction with how I am tempted to "bruise" myself with past sins. I think this is common. Satan, who is also known as "the accuser," loves to get us thinking about past sins and beating ourselves up with them, even though we've confessed them and have been forgiven.
Today I learned something else about this passage. I subscribe to a bi-monthly booklet called "One Bread, One Body" which is published by a group in Cincinnati called "Presentation Ministries." They were founded by a great diocesan priest, Fr. Al Lauer, who died a few years ago of cancer. His daily one page reflections continue to appear in this booklet and online at their web site and I always find them very practical and rich in Scripture references. So here's part of today's reflection that got me thinking:
"Jesus left the district, as the people requested. However, by declining the request of the former demoniac to accompany Him, Jesus made sure that His truth, power, and love would stay in the area through the new life of the former demoniac.
"We have many places, businesses, cities, nations, families, and even churches where Jesus has been told to go away. As requested, Jesus left. However, He also has left us behind. We live in these cities and families. We work in these businesses and churches. Jesus is still present through us, the members of His body. We are to be "other Christs" in the Christ-less situations of our society. We are to be sacraments, signs of Christ's presence. We are to be walking tabernacles, invading the secular world by carrying with us God's presence."
I've always wondered about Jesus telling the healed demoniac to stay where he was rather than to follow Jesus. Now I have a better idea why He may have told him this. Also, knowing God's mercy and dropping the stones of past sins that I may be tempted to beat myself with, I find myself challenged anew to be a "walking tabernacle."
Thank you, Fr. Lauer and Presentation Ministries!