5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
It was late at night, at the end of an all day party, held at a farm owned by the parents of one of one of my fraternity brothers. Most of the guests had left, but a few of us were staying over (I would go to sleep in the back of my Subaru just before dawn) but for now the remaining guests were gathered around a fire out in one of the fields. We were all tired, but not ready to call it a night yet, so we talked quietly as we roasted hot-dogs in the fire. Then, one of my friends pulled his hot-dog out of the fire, began to examine it, and tell us all about how the swine was humanity’s only natural enemy!
He said that people who didn’t eat pork were smart, because the swine was a filthy animal which attacked us from the inside out: through heart disease and high blood pressure. We all laughed at his sermon about the dangers of swine as we continued to eat our pork hot-dogs. While the ancients had good reasons for avoiding pork, and I respect those who refrain from eating it for religious reasons, I think that pigs have gotten a bad rap over the years!
I like pigs, and have always enjoyed watching them root around in the mud and play with each other, when I visited farms or zoos, and I have a co-worker who has a pot-bellied pig which she just loves, and I was even called a “PIG” during my fraternity initiation, and did not see it as an insult. Then of course, there is the inescapable fact that I think bacon, sausage and pork chops are really delicious!
Pigs have helped and sustained people throughout history, providing food, clothing, and even some medicines that have made life better for many. In today’s Gospel we even have a story of how pigs helped Jesus to get rid of a problem that just would not seem to go away…when he drove the demons out of the suffering man and into a herd of pigs, who were then sent into the sea!
As parents, we too may run into problems that just don’t seem to go away, but get worse despite (or maybe due to) all of our efforts to make things better; that the man who was possessed by demons who could not be silenced no matter what the people of the town did. When dealing with financial or behavioral problems, conflicts with the ‘other parent’, school, bullies, friends, addictions, etc., we can find ourselves becoming frustrated and wishing for a herd of pigs that we could give our problems to (though we may not wish to burden pigs with these problems either)!
Sometimes, despite all our efforts, a problem becomes too big for us to handle alone…and just as with the possessed man in the gospel story, we have to turn our troubles over to Jesus. Of course, this is not always easy for us to…as single parents are not always so good at letting go, we are more take charge kind of people, as we have learned to rely on ourselves…yet, often this self-reliance does not really work for us, and we have to admit that we need help…and then take things a step farther by accepting that help from others.
While many people sought to help (or at least control) the man, no one else but Jesus could have cast out the demons, and healed him, but even Jesus needed the help of the pigs to dispose of the demons.
And here is our good news: no matter how stubborn the problem, or how hopeless and frustrated we may feel, we do not have to face these challenges alone…even if we are too stubborn to ask for help, Christ is still with us, offering us love and support, given as a free gift!
Knowing we are surrounded by this love we can then take the leap of faith we sometimes need to ask others for advice and help in dealing with our worries. Even if we cannot always find a solution quickly, it does help knowing we are not alone, and that others have been through these same struggles with their children…whom they love more than anything!
It is when we share our burdens together, that we are acting as Christ in the world…seeking to heal and help one another, and to make life better for ourselves and our children.
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for giving us animals like pigs which can help sustain, nourish and support us; and thank you for giving us your love as shared with our children and each other. Although we single parents like to think of ourselves as ‘take charge’ people, help us to have the humility to ask for and then accept the help of others…as we cannot do it all ‘on our own’; but need the support and help of others. Let us remember that when we have the strength to ask for help that we are showing our children faith in action, being a power of example for them as they face challenges in their own lives.