If pigs could fly- Wednesday – 13th week in ordinary time- Matthew 8:28-34
Jesus is now in Gentile country and Gadara is about six miles from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was in this part of the land that the Decapolis was established—the league of ten, largely Gentile, cities. This explains the pigs!
Had they been in Jewish country there would be no pigs at all; for not only were pigs considered unclean, they were also seen as funny. The Gentiles on the other hand had no such problem, for they reared pigs and ate them and knowing of the Jews’ horror of swine, made this a subject of laughter and teasing (JBC).
The passage of today is not limited only to pigs; we also have demons to compound the matter. The Fourth Lateran council which began in Rome in 1215, clearly acknowledges the role of Satan and his fallen angels who are called demons. It’s a pity that some Christians dismiss with ‘great authority’ the role of Satan or demons as merely a creation of a superstitious mind.
The activities of the two demons (a single demon mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and Luke), are described in great detail here in Matthew’s Gospel. Sufficient to say that they recognize Jesus as the Son of God and fear that He has come to judge them, yet strangely two verses before, the disciples in the boat asked themselves ‘what sort of man Jesus was’. The demons answered that one! He is the Son of God.
So what are the demons up to? The demons took residence in two healthy humans. Jesus has come to rescue us from the power of satan! The demons know the mission of Jesus and know that they are to be expelled from the humans before their time. So what option do they have? The answer is simple; to be sent into that which is considered unclean, the pigs.
In the previous pericope we discussed how the sea was considered the place of evil and the dwelling of demons. It’s no wonder that the two thousand herd of swine, (Mark’s gospel provides this detail) now possessed by the demons, head to the sea. They rush down a steep bank into the sea and perish. That seems like a happy ending, but it was not!
What’s Matthew’s point in telling us this narrative? That Jesus is the Son of God – He has power over nature and satan, and has come to release us from the clutches of satan. Yet the Gentile villagers are upset and ask Jesus to leave when they should have hailed Him as a hero, if not for who He was – the Son of God.
So why did they beg Jesus to leave? That too after He demonstrated such great power? Perhaps they were plain scared or perhaps they just lost their livelihood of two thousand pigs. Money after all talks.
Thank God the pigs did not have wings, or else they would have flown off with the demons in them. Thank God pigs can’t fly!
Fr Warner D’Souza