Monday January 31, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 11:32-40) Gospel (St. Mark 5:1-20)
As we hear in the Gospel reading today about this man who was possessed by Legion, it is interesting to note what Our Lord does after the man had been delivered of the demons. This is a pagan man who was living in pagan territory, and Jesus did with him something that was entirely different from what He was doing with anybody else. He told the man, Go out and tell everybody what God has done for you. Normally, He would say, “Just go and show yourself to the priests. Don’t say anything,” or He would tell the people, “Be silent.” Of course, we know the people went off and told everybody anyhow. But in this case, Jesus told this man to go off and tell everybody what the Lord had done.
The reason for this is because this man was a pagan and he was living with the pagans. So He allowed this man to tell the pagans, to preach the Gospel (even to the Gentiles in this case), because Jesus had come, as He tells us Himself, to call back the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It was generally only to the people of Israel that Our Lord came preaching the Gospel. It was the Israelites who had all of the promises, they had the grace, and they would have been the ones who should have recognized Him. That is precisely why the Lord did not allow anybody to go off and tell the Jewish people what it was He had done. They needed to be able to recognize Who He was based on the Scriptures, based on all the things that had been promised regarding Him; whereas the pagans, not knowing these things and worshiping false gods, needed to hear that there was only one true God and that God had now sent His Son into the world to free humanity from sin.
When we think about how this is going to apply to our own selves, what we need to realize, number one, is what the Lord has done for us. We were not possessed by Legion – thanks be to God! – but nonetheless, if we look at our own lives and we see what Our Lord has delivered us from, it is pretty extraordinary. Now it is for us to be able to go and bring the message of Christ to others, to let the world know what Jesus has done for us. Of course, we do that through our words, but especially through our actions, through the way that we are going to live our lives. We also know from experience that most people do not want to hear it. They are not interested because they do not want to be bothered and they do not want to change their lives. So it winds up being for us just as it was for the people Saint Paul is talking about in the first reading. They did all of these various things, but they wound up being rejected. He says of these people: The world was not worthy of them. Would that we would someday be able to say the same thing about ourselves, that the world was not worthy of us. That means we have to get rid of the worldliness that is within us. It means we have to truly be living our lives for Christ so that we will be able to rise above the ways of the world, that we have to live in this world temporarily but we are not to be of the world. That is the challenge.
When we see what Our Lord has done for us, we need to change our lives. For the man who was possessed, it was pretty evident what kind of change was going to happen immediately. We are not possessed, but nonetheless we have to realize what Our Lord has freed us from and we need to change. As I have mentioned hundreds of times, the problem is that we do not want to change. We do not like to change, and if we do not change then what we would do if we were this possessed man, even though we were now free of the demons, we would have just sat in the tombs because that is what people expected, because that is what they were used to. He did not do that. He did more than just sit there in his right mind, fully clothed. He went off to the Decapolis cities and started to preach the Gospel. He changed his life entirely. So too for us, it is not enough to say, “Okay, I’m simply not going to do those things anymore that are so sinful, but then I’ll continue to live my life pretty much the same way otherwise.” That is not an option. We need to change. The Lord is asking us to be holy; He is asking us to become saints. He is not asking us to simply leave behind some of the mortal sins but otherwise live like the pagans. That is not an option for us. If we are truly going to recognize what He has done, then we have to change our lives; and changing our lives, we are going to be persecuted, we are going to be rejected, but so was He. We need to praise God when those things happen. And God willing, we can actually grow in holiness to the point where it will be able to be said of us: The world was not worthy of them.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.