Scripture: lectionary 379. Genesis 21:5,8-20. Psalm 34:7-8.10-11.12-13. Matthew 8:28-34:
St. Matthew has as one of his main sources the Gospel of Mark. In today’s Gospel we can easily compare the event of the expelling of demons from the two men with the thicker and dramatic account found in Mark 5: 1-20. The main thrust of both narratives is the power of Jesus over all forms of evil—especially over demons. Luke does not have this exorcism. By comparing the selection from Matthew with that of Mark one sees how the Gospels, at the beginning, were a process that extended from Mark to Matthew to Luke and finally to John. All of them were not only evangelists but also theologians and cultivated writers.
One easily sees that Matthew changes some of the details and abbreviates the account of Mark. He says there are two who are possessed roaming the hills. They call Jesus the Son of God and are terrified by his presence. He sends them into the herd of swine that perish in the Lake of Galilee.
In the New Jerome Biblical Commentary Father Benedict Viviano, a Dominican scholar states: “This is the closest the Gospels come to comic storytelling. To the Israelites, pigs not only were unclean but also funny; to the Gentiles, the Jews’ horror of swine was a subject for laughter and teasing (cf. II Macc. 6:18; 17:1; Josephus Anitquities 12.5.4/253; 13:8.2/ 243; Juvenal , Sat. 6, 159.”
It seems that Matthew has a pattern of using two blind men just as he does here in our narrative with two possessed men, while Mark has only one man in both happenings. As educated readers and believers we can see the literary dependence of Matthew upon Mark. The point being made by both evangelists is that Jesus has absolute power over all forms of evil.
Jesus has come before the appointed time to drive out demons and evil in the present and to continue to do so. We trust in his power and his healing to deliver us from all evil. We remind ourselves of this each day when we say the Lord’s prayer…”deliver us from all evil. Amen.”
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.