Luke 8:26-30 2023/11/12 Osaka Church
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
One day, Jesus drove out the demons from a man who was possessed by them and was living in a graveyard. The Gospel of Mark describes this man’s condition vividly.
“He had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; and no one tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”
He was asked by Jesus his name, and he answered, “Legion.” The Legion is an army with 6,000 soldiers. There were countless demons possessing him. The demons knew of Jesus’ great power, which they could not overcome, and asked Jesus to allow them to enter a herd of pigs kept in a nearby mountain. That wish was granted. The demon-possessed man came to his senses, and the herd of pigs ran down into the lake and died.
This man’s condition is not that of a particularly mentally ill person, but the condition of us humans. Torn apart by countless passions such as anger, hatred, and jealousy, which the Legion symbolizes, he is unable to control his mind and body, spirals into an “out of control” state, and finally falls into “death.” This is what we are all about. The Holy Apostle Paul confesses:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do… Wretched man that I am!”
How can we escape this misery? No matter how rigorous our practices are to rid ourselves of the desires and emotions that torment us, it is impossible. Desires cannot be removed, emotions cannot be suppressed. Both desires and emotions arise from the desires given to us by God – hopes, thirst, hunger. The problem is that these desires are directed in the wrong direction. There is no other way but to change the direction of these desires to escape this suffering.
No matter how much you scold and beat down your passions and desires, they will only be beaten back into something even worse, rising back up and adding to your suffering.
Our desires are inherent to us humans. That desire will continue to grow. Desire germinates when we taste a particular taste, and grows as we taste that taste repeatedly. The same is true for good desires and bad desires.When we experience a certain pleasure, our desires begin to sprout, and by repeatedly savoring that pleasure, they grow larger. The same is true for both twisted pleasures and good ones. When we touch the taste of dangerous pleasure, whether it’s the pleasure of the flesh or the pleasure of pride, judgment, gossip, or cruelty, the desire to experience it again is born. With each repetition, it turns into an uncontrollable demonic force that dominates us. Therefore, we must boldly change what we see, taste, and experience. There is no other way.
Dangerous pleasure is not only physical pleasure. Replace the taste of pride, judgment, gossip, bullying, and meanness with the taste of the kingdom of God.
The taste is here. By enjoying the taste of the Kingdom of God that comes from the Divine Liturgy, we develop a desire for the Kingdom of God, which comes not from thoughts but from experiences. Eventually, that desire grows into a heart-wrenching longing for God. This hunger for God, this thirst for God, captures the heart as a “passion for God,” an intense, unstoppable search for God. The taste of the countless pleasures that this world offers gradually fades.
St. Nicholas Kabasilas says:
“The sun has already risen with grace for us. The fragrance of heaven has been poured out even onto this earth. The bread of the angels has been given even to us humans.”
This is where we share that bread. This is to instill and nurture a longing, a desire, and a desire for the “Kingdom of God” that will soon come to us. In fact, the Kingdom is already here. When you come here, receiving Holy communion.