23rd Sunday after Pentecost – the Possessed Gadarene
Homily From “The One Thing Needful,” Sermons of Archbishop Andrei (Rymarenko)
“Now the man out of whom the demons were departed besought Him that he might be with Him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and tell what great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him” (Lk. 8:38-39).
So, brothers and sisters, ends today’s Gospel reading where, as you heard, the Lord tells the healed man to reveal the mystery of his healing before all the Gadarene people. And this is what he did. The Gospel does not tell us how he related what had happened to him; but according to the meaning of the Gospel narrative, we can fully imagine what he must have said and what he most likely did say. Here is what he must have said:
You Gadarenes have known me from my childhood. I was born among you and grew up among you, in your Gadarene land, a land of transgression. You have seen what happened. You lived not according to the Law which God revealed to you, but according to your lawlessness. In your desire for riches and comfort you engaged in a sinful trade, a trade which was not blessed by God. You raised pigs. You had whole herds of them, and yet according to the Law, they are unclean animals. God punished you and gave you over to the power of the devil.
And by the incomprehensible Providence of God, all this demonic power lodged in me alone — I bore your punishment. I was changed from a human being into a beast. I couldn’t live in houses — I lived in a desert place, in a cave where the dead were buried. You bound me with chains, and I broke them. There wasn’t just one devil within me but a whole legion of devils; as you saw in reality when He Who healed me permitted the demons to enter your herd of pigs, which threw itself from the precipice into the lake and drowned. Yes, now you can truly imagine why I caused so much evil and trouble. There was a terrible power in me. The devils took possession of all my human passions and brought them to a monstrous state. That is why I hated you so savagely, why I wanted to torment you, destroy you.
And now this force has left me. I am asking you to forgive me. I love you now as a brother — I want to become your fellow citizen. And how grateful I am to Him Who freed me – He is my Savior — He is my God! And I am calling all of you to Him. Everything you are looking for: peace, happiness, joy — everything you will find in Heaven. All of you who weep, go to Him. He will wipe away your tears. He will give you what no earthly riches can give.
This is what the formerly possessed man told the Gadarenes. He could also say the same to us. And we would not be surprised, because the very same thing is going on right now. All our newspapers tell us about such horrors which cannot be explained without the participation of the power of evil. And against the background of this nightmare we seem to hear the voice of this man healed by Christ: “I have peace and quiet in my soul. This was given to me by Christ. He will give it to you, too. Hasten to Him. My heart is filled with sweet compunction.”
But our skeptical mind will ask: Is this so? And even if it is so, how long will this sweet compunction last? Here we are given an answer in today’s reading from the Apostle: “But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the GIFT OF GOD” (Eph. 2:4-5, 8). In these words of the Apostle we have a whole revelation. We have heard about the sufferings of the possessed one and how the Grace of God delivered him from them. This same Grace can do the very same for us. But Grace is given through faith. What is faith? In answer to this question I will tell you one incident from my student life.
I studied at the Polytechnic Institute. At the same time I was a member of a Christian student society. Once, we students decided to invite to our meeting our teacher, Father John Egorov, a famous professor of theology. He would have to travel to Lesnoye, a suburb of St. Petersburg, where our polytechnic institute was located.
We asked him to come visit us, but he answered: “I have never been there, and I don’t know how to go.”
Our friend who had come to invite him said: “Father, it is very simple. First, go to the railroad station, and there you will find the street car. Wait until number 20 comes and take it. Without asking anyone, go to the very end. The conductor will say: ‘Polytechnic Institute — last stop.’ Walk out, stand with your back to the street car and before you will be a lane. Here, look for number 6 and before you will be a courtyard, and in the courtyard a house. Go up to the second floor, and you will find us there.”
Father John said: “A week passed and Sunday came. I took my notebook, looked at what I had written, and knew at once what I had to do. I remembered everything that your friend told me, and accepted it within myself as if I had already done it. I did all this in reality, and here I am with you.”
This is what faith means: to accept within oneself what was said, and put what was said into action.
Here in the Holy Gospel promises are given to us, and also instructions of what we must do to receive these promises. Let us accept them with faith. Let us perform everything that we are instructed to do in our lives, and we will receive the same Grace, the same peace, the same joy. We will receive everything that was received by the possessed man healed by Christ. Then the words of Christ will also refer to us. ‘‘Return to thine own house, and tell what great things God hath done unto thee.”