Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Incidents such as the one portrayed in today's Gospel, similar to yesterday's Gospel, confound Westerners like ourselves. Whereas we tend to discount the idea that evil spirits roam the land, the people of the Mediterranean crescent do not. The people of Jesus' time and culture believed that the world was full of spirits, good and evil, which held a certain amount of influence in their lives. While the Church still regards it as possible that one can be possessed, most physical convulsions of the sort which Jesus encounters are looked upon as medical issues.
Because the people of this culture did believe in evil spirits, they are not amazed or astonished when they encounter them. So the fact that the man in the synagogue or the man at the roadside seems to be possessed is just another experience of such evil in their minds.
However, the fact that Jesus can control them does astonish and amaze them because they do not expect such power and authority in the son of a carpenter. The evangelists thus record these incidents wherein Jesus expels evil spirits as a tool to express their faith in Jesus' authority and, in the case of today's Gospel, an occasion when Jesus is rejected because he does not meet their expectations.
As we read these passages some two thousand years later and with the eyes of faith, our eyes and hearts must focus on the issue of rejection. Jesus is still rejected by many people today, not because he can expel evil spirits, but because he comes to us with the authority which is vested in him as God incarnate. Such authority demands our obedience. Because we view ourselves as free to do what we wish when we wish, many reject the sway that Jesus would have over our lives.