This Sunday we read the story of the Gadarene, a strange and fearsome man, who lived in the first century Palestine, and who experienced a decisive moment when he met Christ and was completely changed. The real question about this passage is of what importance is it to us who live in an entirely different circumstance and modern time?
Christ, we know, came not to bring us new moral teachings or set down a new revolutionary social or political program; but rather, to heal our bodies and souls, to redeem us from sin and death and primarily to give us new God centered lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me” (John 6:37). You see Jesus’ gift of new life involves not only new attitudes, new ways of doing things and a new spiritual direction, but also a new self.
A new self in Christ means a new understanding of and a new relationship to self, Christ, God, Holy Spirit, and others and the world. Christ changes not merely the spiritual circumstances in which we live, but also our inner being or character – us.
We know from the story that Jesus asked the Gadarene, “what is your name?”, because Jesus loved him and wanted to know his name. Christ asks the same question to us, “What is your name, that is, who are you?” You see Christ comes to us as we are, accepts us for what we are, and seeks to lift us up with His love to give us our true identity in Him.
But our reaction just as that of the Gadarene is one of fear, and even like his fellow friends who went as far as to ask Jesus to go away. When Jesus approaches, do we hold back, does the prospect of truly meeting Him disturb us? Why? It is because we have to grow to trust Him completely in every aspect of our lives and invite Him into our hearts and let Him change our old self into a new person in Christ! This is the essence of this passage: to deliver us and all people from demonic forces which distort our identity as human beings and sometimes threaten to destroy us all together.
The question is what overt or subtle demonic forces are ominously at work in our own times – which are in many disturbing ways times of disorientation, violence and even madness? In a proper spirit we must in our own lives identify some of these destructive factors and forces and how they influence us. For the prayer of this Sunday states, “By the power of the Holy Spirit cleanse us from the evils of old self, selfishness, fear, guilt and wrong deeds, which hold us prisoners and torment us in various ways. Reign in our hearts as King so that we may, as the healed Gadarene man, sit peacefully at Your feet. Be in our right minds and ready to serve You. Amen!”
On November 1, 2021 the Orthodox Church commemorates the memory of the Holy Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia and their mother St. Theodota, who used their skills and knowledge to heal the sick. There are actually three groupings of Sts. Cosmas and Damian all of which are known as Unmercenary Physicians: July 1 of Rome, October 17 of Arabia and November 1 of Mesopotamia, which we celebrate at the beginning of November.