The other side, not my side – Monday, 4th Week in ordinary time – Mark 5:1-20
At quite an unearthly hour, Jesus decided to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee (4:35). He simply told his disciples that he needed them all to “go to the other side.” (Mark 4:35) That evening’s boat ride, as we know, ended up in a nightmare for the disciples and ironically it was the Lord who was sleeping while they were experiencing the most terrifying ordeal that the Sea of Galilee threw up.
A lesson in faith and fear now taught, the disciples and Jesus arrive on the “other side” (Mark 5:1). It seemed that this was to be a roller coaster of horrifying experience for waiting on the “other side” was a man with an unclean spirit who had made the tombs his residence. St Mark noted every detail of the storm-tossed trip and now gives us every detail of this horrifying encounter. We are told that this man could not be restrained anymore even with a chain. He had been tied up with a chain but it proved to be useless as he had wrenched apart the chain and broken the shackles into pieces. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he howled, bruising himself with stones.
Like the disciples we too wonder why the Lord exposes us to a series of terrifying ordeals and that too in quick succession. While our frustration is quite understandable the Lord has his reasons. Yes, he did get into a boat and the disciples had to experience a hellish ride before encountering hell itself with this man possessed with a legion of demons but while we moan at our challenges the Lord hears the cries of a man who has suffered so much for so long. The Lord heard his cries across the sea of Galilee on the “other side.”
While we moan and complain of a near titanic experience for a night and then have to deal with a terrifying encounter, here was a man who lived this experience for not just a night but for “nights and days” (5:5). Whose cry should the Lord hear? Our momentary pains and discomforts or an obscure soul in the mountains whose life has been taken over by a legion of devils.
While the narrative takes its course and the mercy of God works a miracle for this man, we are told that the man on being released from these demons, “begs Jesus that he might be with Him” (5:18). The man’s fear is understandable. It took the Messiah, the Son of God, to free him from the bondage of satan. How blessed we are that we have a saviour who offers this freedom from sin through the sacrament of reconciliation and at the confessional there is no fear, just love.