When Jesus came to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And he said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.
The two demoniacs suddenly shouted: What have you to do with us, Son of God?
During my lifetime I have seen a growth in society’s eagerness to ask questions. The style of questioning that has emerged has been increasingly challenging and combative. Those in positions of authority are no longer seen as deserving ‘respect’ and ‘obedience’ as a matter of right. Those who have come into positions of authority are constantly called to account for their decisions and actions. Similarly, the authority that was once exercised by the Church has come into question. We no longer live in a world where the Church is seen as leading the way. The Church is also called upon to justify the authority it claims to exercise in the world.
Historians and sociologists often associate this societal shift in matters of acceptance and respect to the years that immediately followed the Second World War. The status quo that had existed in the 1930s had been overthrown. Those who wielded power over the lives of others were seen to be flawed, and not perfect. Questions began to be asked.
When I was a teenager those questions began to manifest themselves in popular culture of all sorts. Music sought to deconstruct the accepted norms of recent history. Theatre fought its way out of the straitjacket of censorship. Literature reflected the gritty reality of ordinary life, rather than the dreamy escapism that was centred around hierarchy and deference. The Church became, in the eyes of many, an anachronistic place of superstition and myth. In my lifetime I have heard so many join the Gadarene demoniacs in asking: What have you to do with us, Son of God?
For those of us who cling on to our faith in the Son of God, the world is often viewed as having sunk into a hopeless pit of despair and self-destruction. But … this world, and all of us, are still part of God’s wonderful creation, the creation he saw as being very good. Each of us are still made in the image of God. Each of us share in the free will that was given to our earliest ancestors in the Garden of Eden. Each of us still has the choice to believe in and journey with God, or to reject him.
This world is in need of Christ’s healing touch, just as we are as individuals. But, it has never been any different. This world is flawed because it is inhabited by human beings who, despite being made in the image of God, are flawed because we are not God! It is our calling, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to allow him to cast out all that is dark and negative in us in order that we might shine as his lights in this world. It is our calling to join him in repelling the forces of darkness through our steadfastness and faith. It is our calling to recognize that we are the hands, the feet, the head and the heart of Christ in this world today.