GENESIS 21: 5, 8 – 20
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And the child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the child.” And as she sat over against him, the child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 34: 7 – 8, 10 – 11, 12 – 13 (R.) 7a
R/. The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him.
This lowly one called; the Lord heard,
and rescued him from all his distress.
The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who fear him, to rescue them. R/.
Fear the Lord, you his holy ones.
They lack nothing, those who fear him.
The rich suffer want and go hungry,
But those who seek the Lord lack no blessing. R/.
Come, children, and hear me,
That I may teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is it that desires life
And longs to see prosperous days? R/.
James 1: 18
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his.
You have come here before the appointed time to torment the demons.
MATTHEW 8: 28 – 34
At that time: When Jesus came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a, herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.
The Gospel of the Lord.
GOSPEL REFLECTION: Rejoicing in the Goodness of Others
July 5, 2023
The swineherds ran away, and when they came to the town they reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. (Matthew 8:33–34)
Why would “the whole town” beg Jesus to leave their district as a result of Jesus delivering two of their fellow townsmen from demons? This event took place on the northeast edge of the Sea of Galilee near a town of the Gadarenes who were not of Jewish background, which accounts for the fact that there was such a large herd of swine (the Jewish people did not eat pork). Two of the Gadarenes were possessed by demons, and Scripture reports that “They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.” And when Jesus delivers them from this awful plight, instead of rejoicing in gratitude, the townspeople begged Jesus to leave.
Saint Jerome says that it is possible that the people were actually acting in humility, in that they did not consider themselves worthy to be in the presence of someone as great as Jesus. Like Saint Peter who fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8), these townspeople may have been in such awe at what Jesus did for them that they did not see themselves as being worthy of His presence. However, other Church Fathers point out that it is more likely that these townspeople signify those who are stuck in their life of sin and do not want to come face-to-face with the Gospel or with the Person of Jesus. They prefer to close their ears to the truth and to remain in their life of ignorance and sin.
It’s also helpful to reflect upon the relationship between the townspeople and these two demoniacs. Ideally, when the townspeople saw these two men completely freed of the demons who tormented them, they would have rejoiced in a way similar to the way the father of the Prodigal Son rejoiced when his son returned to him. Sadly, in this case, there seems to be a tremendous lack of excitement by their fellow townsmen over the freedom these two demoniacs experienced. This shows a clear lack of love for these two men within the town. Perhaps many of the townspeople took a twisted form of pleasure in their mockery of these two men over the years, and they enjoyed telling stories about how crazy they were. Now, they were faced with these two men who were completely changed, and they may have found it difficult to speak well of them because of their pride.
This negative example set by these townspeople gives us an opportunity to reflect upon how we think about and treat those who have changed their ways and have turned from evil to good. Perhaps you have a family member who has sincerely tried to change. Or perhaps someone at work, a neighbor or some other acquaintance has gone from a life of sin to a life seeking virtue. The real question to ponder is whether you rejoice over the goodness of others, over their ongoing conversion and pursuit of holiness, or whether you struggle with truly expressing joy as you see people you know change for the good. It’s often very easy to criticize but much more difficult to rejoice in the holy transformation of another.
Reflect, today, upon those in your life, those close to you and those with whom you are mere acquaintances, who have been set free by our Lord in some way and have moved from a life of sin toward a life of virtue. How do you react to them? Are you able to sincerely rejoice in the goodness of others? Or do you find yourself struggling with jealousy, anger, envy and the like? As you do see the goodness of God at work in others, try to put on the mentality suggested by Saint Jerome above. Allow yourself to be in awe of God’s action in their lives. As you do, humble yourself before the transforming power of God, admitting that you are not worthy to witness His transforming power but rejoice in gratitude nonetheless.
My all-powerful Lord, You overcame the power of the evil one and cast demons from these two men who suffered through this oppression for many years. Give me the eyes I need to see You at work in our world and to joyfully bear witness to Your transforming action in the lives of others. May I always humble myself before Your saving actions and learn to express true gratitude for all that You do. Jesus, I trust in You.