Jesus healing the “Demoniac” –
and pigs “flying” !!
Brian’s Reflection: The Weekend, Sat, June 19, 2010
[ Proper VII, Year C RCL ]
I have had only one icon “written” for me: this one. As you can see, it is the Gerasene “demoniac”, “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind”. And the pigs, now infected by the demons, are rushing over the cliff to their watery death. Isn’t it charming!! (Naturally, the Orthodox minders told my friend that this was not a “proper icon” since it did not portray “traditional themes”. Oh well. Prigs are so boring! Especially religious prigs – and we have a lot of them these days, alas.)
I had this icon done because (a) I love the imagery, and (b) because I always wanted to donate a stained glass window on this theme to a church, but I knew I would never be able to afford it (let alone get a church to accept it!). Did you know that the illustrious diocese of New York is about at the bottom of the list in the Episcopal Church for paying the clergy?? As a priest in the category of over 20 years of ordination, and pastoring two congregations at the same time (which is supposed to be two half-time positions and is really two full-time positions) , I never made more than $37,000 a year – and meanwhile the minimum in Los Angeles was over $60,000!! Wish I had known THAT – not that money is the Be All of course. Anyway, glad to get that off my chest!
Here’s my take on the story – which is in my opinion not a factual story but, in the tradition of great mythological story-telling, one devised to make certain important “teaching points”. We human beings are inhabited with killing delusions about the nature of Life and about the Path to Truth, Wholeness, Freedom – however these “demons” come to us. These “demons” are ubiquitous, “legion”. The core purpose of Faith and of it’s servant Religion is to show us the true nature of Life, and to point us to the Path of Truth, Wholeness and Freedom. The consummate “answer” to all that is “God”. Human beings are not stupid – though watching modern politicians might give us pause big time. We know what we need: Wisdom, Compassion, Justice, Tenderness, Faithfulness, Beauty, Kindness, Humility. We have it in Jesus, in the Buddha, and in countless other Teachers.
Everything that Jesus stands for drives out the demons – and in the story, they go into pigs which, to Jews then, were the Utter Darkness. When that happens to us, “Jesus” doesn’t want us to sit around being pious. He wants us to share the Good News! By being all those things we know make us truly Human.