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July 4, 2018: Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Reading Amos 5:14-15,21-24
Gospel Matthew 8:28-34

…when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.

As we Americans celebrate Independence Day, it’s important for us to consider the spiritual independence from evil that each of us needs, and which only Jesus can give. Today’s Gospel helps us reflect on the conflict required to achieve spiritual independence.

While some in our day and age dismiss the possibility of demonic possession, suggesting that reported cases of possession are only psychological disorders, the Church takes today’s Gospel passage at its word.

One striking point in this passage is the reaction of people to the swineherds’ report: “they begged [Jesus] to leave their district.” Why do the people react this way? One might expect the people instead to express gratitude to Jesus, and invite Him to stay as their protector.

Perhaps the people were in shock, never before imagining that demons might dwell among them. However, demonic possession in the Holy Land was not uncommon in Jesus’ day. The reaction of the people might reflect a belief that demonic possession only happens to “other” people, much as people in our own day think that tragedy only strikes others. Some people today, when tragedy strikes in their own lives, react by blaming God, regardless of who truly—if anyone—was to blame. Some people even stop practicing their religion after being struck by tragedy, so difficult is it for them to understand God’s providential Will.

While each of us needs to practice prudence in order to deter sin, violence and death in our lives, we should have no illusions of escaping them altogether. Instead of praying to avoid suffering, we need to stand fast with Our Savior on Calvary, knowing that suffering is an essential part of achieving freedom from evil.