The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Not in My Neighborhood

And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
Matthew (RSV) 8:34

It's interesting to ponder why the citizens of Gadara asked The Christ to leave their land after he had healed the demoniacs. This passage from Matthew's Gospel concludes the famous scripture where Christ confronts the two possessed people who had terrorized the countryside to the point that no one even dared to venture down the road in front of the caves where they roamed. The demons ask to be allowed to go into the herd of swine, which Christ allows, and then that very herd rushes into the sea and drowns itself.

First one must understand that the Gardarenes were mostly gentiles, Greeks who settled in the area after Alexander the Great's exploits. Jews would never herd swine. So when Christ expelled the demons into the swine who then killed themselves, there were probably some less than enchanted swine herdsmen who now had to explain to their boss what happened to his property. Oh to have been able to listen in on that conversation. In modern vernacular it might have sounded something like,

"There was this dude who like drove your pigs nuts and they totally went off the cliff."

It's not easy bringing Christ into foreign territory, whether that be a country or a secular culture. God has always maintained a system of free will. One can accept His reality or not. Had Christ approached the herdsmen and asked their permission to sacrifice their livelihood in exchange for the curing of the two demoniacs, it's highly likely they would have driven Our Lord and His disciples into the sea right then and there.

To truly be the follower of Our Lord means to be willing to give up everything of earthly value for the Kingdom of Heaven. That's not just a tall order for the non-believer, the faithful struggle with this day in and day out.

How often does one pick and choose the Christ he allows into his neighborhood. The loving Christ; the comforting Christ; the giving Christ; the forgiving Christ are all welcomed; however, when the suffering Christ; the tortured Christ; or Christ dead in tomb makes it into one's world, how easy it is to ask this Christ to leave.

Like the Gardarenes, one doesn't understand the good these less than pleasant manifestations of Christ bring. The homeless person living on the margins begging for change gets not just casually overlooked, but consciously ignored as one pretends one didn't see this person who is not just a fellow human being, but a soul where Jesus also lives.

Every non-believer either consciously or unconsciously asks the same question posed by the demoniacs, "What have you to do with me, O Son of God?" though not out of fear of eternal punishment as the demons who knew their ultimate destination of perdition but rather out of a seeking to answer the nagging question of what is this Christ? Yet how often does one reach out to this person with self-righteousness, lectures or indifference instead of love and tolerance?

And when Christ comes with the burden of a heavy cross, how often does one wish this Christ would leave and take the burden with Him. Instead of embracing the wood, one bitterly drags the weight of the matter angered by being chosen.

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.
Matthew (RSV) 9:1

Christ didn't argue with the people. He didn't try to explain what He had just done for the poor souls whom He had freed from their possession by the demons. And scripture doesn't reveal if those cured followed Him. He doesn't boast of his authority over the evil one. He simply leaves as they requested.

The love of Jesus is everlasting. One never loses that. Yet if one chooses to send Him away, He will give one the space desired. Perhaps becoming more one with Christ lies in the choice to accept into one's neighborhood The Christ in whatever form He enters. Herein awaits the true conforming of one's heart to that of the Savior.


Blogger Soul Pockets said...

I believe that if you welcome the loving and comforting Christ into your heart God will give you the strength and the Grace to stand strong when the crosses come. At these times it is a struggle to get past the thoughts of how easy it would be to turn away. But in the midst of the suffering, the loving and comforting Christ is still there. Beautiful post, I enjoyed reading it.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Christina Martin said...

Excellent reflection... thanks!

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