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The Demoniac and the Herd of Swine (Luke)
Sermon on the Demoniac and the Herd of Swine
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Brethren, it is our joy to welcome back the piggies. Why does the Church seem to place such importance on this story, this particular miracle? Because,(and we need to hear it again and again), Christ is the Giver of Life. Satan is the giver of death. Christ is the Truth, Satan is the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44). “God is not the author confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33.) Satan is the promoter of confusion, turmoil, despondency, depression and suicide. Christ is the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Satan insinuates himself into our heads with crafty, evil thoughts (Genesis 3:1). It’s that simple. God, through Moses, said, “I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19.) In order for us to truly be made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27), we must be free; free to choose right or wrong, darkness or light, and yes, even God or Satan. Ultimately, all of our choices which have anything to do with our salvation, boil down to these two. The Lord said, “No man can serve two lords (κυρίοις): for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). “Mammon” literally means material wealth, but in Luke 16:9 the Lord relates the word “mammon” to “unrighteousness!” Ye cannot serve God AND unrighteousness together. So we have two choices, two “lords” that we might serve, Christ or Satan.
So who did the demoniac in this morning’s Gospel serve? Who did he choose? It is obvious. By his own choice he got himself into this horrifying condition. How do we know this? Even the description of his condition tells us. 1. He had demons for a long time. Demons cannot force themselves into us. We must either invite them or somehow allow them to come in. That he had many demons, and for a long time, shows his long-term evil behavior and his allowance of demonic activity. 2. He wore no clothes. Shamelessness, lasciviousness, nakedness, general immorality, these are all hallmarks of those who despise the laws of both God and nature. 3. He lived in the tombs. Demons use cemeteries, mediums, psychics, etc. to pretend that they are the voices of the dead. St. John Chrysostom asks: “But what can be the reason that they love to dwell in the tombs? They would be happy to suggest to the multitudes an insidious notion: that the souls of the dead become demons, which (God forbid!) we should ever admit into our thinking." 4. His own words declare the nature of his relationship with God. “What is there between me and Thee, Jesus, Son of God Most High?” St Cyril of Alexandria points out that the demoniac, along with his demons of course, confesses that Jesus is the Son of the Most High. He also confesses that Jesus is God – the God Who will judge the living and the dead, the same God Who will assign either eternal torments or eternal joy. And yet, in his overweening pride, he boasts in the fact that he neither has, nor does he want a relationship with Him. “What is there between me and Thee, Jesus, Son of God Most High?” The answer is, there is nothing between them. The demoniac does not want anything to do with Jesus. Love must go two ways in order for there to be a relationship.
Dear ones, St Anthony the Great says: "We have among us terrible and cunning enemies, the evil spirits. As soon as the demons see that any Christian is a struggler and growing in virtue, they strive to hinder the path with temptations, inspiring evil thoughts. If they cannot seduce the heart with blatant, impure sensuality, then they attack again, trying to instill fear with dreams and visions.... But these apparitions are, in themselves, nothing, and soon disappear if one, with faith in God's help, signs himself with the sign of the Cross" (Works, p. 30). The Holy Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord, wrote: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). What does this mean? It means that God has given us all that we need to deflect the assaults of Satan. Our defense against Satan is Christ Himself, His Most pure and holy Mother, the holy saints and angels, and all the things which He has given us through His Holy Church. In order to preserve ourselves from the seduction of the evil one, we must thoroughly learn the Scriptures, and the rest of the Holy Tradition (2Ths.2:15;3:6; etc.). We must struggle to lead an authentic Orthodox way of life. The Holy Church is our refuge and harbor, our safe haven from the storms of the evil spirits. Constantly educating ourselves both intellectually and spiritually in the Orthodox Faith is absolutely necessary. Moreover, one must learn to pray without ceasing, as our Saviour commanded us, calling on God in the words given us by Christ, to "deliver us from the evil one."
I will conclude with some edifying words of St Theophan the Recluse, our great intercessor and guide in the spiritual life:
“The devil approached the God-man with temptations. Who among men is free of them? He who lives according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but simply turns more and more evil. As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God’s will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter the good thoughts and intentions of the repentant one in any way that they can. If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labors of cleansing the heart. If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on, until the end of one’s life. They do not even let a person die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where the demons hover and congregate.
You ask, “What should we do? It is hopeless and terrifying!”
For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because in the presence of a God-fearing person demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over them. A sober person of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away from them, not daring to approach, and fearing more of the defeat which they have already experienced. If they succeed in something, it is due to our own blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly. If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow.
So be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.” Amen.