We had bought a small house down the street from where I grew up. Caddy-corner to our back yard was a house that a family of boys, even larger than our own grew up. They were mostly older, rougher around the edges and often trouble. When we bought the house it never occurred to me that some kids just take a lot longer to grow up and there might be some trouble living there. Stemming from their yard over the years came all sorts of drugs, drinking and police problems, including an actual gang fight spilling out into all our yards with chains, clubs and gunfire. It was intimidating to live next to that and try to just mind your own business and not be scared sometimes. Once I noticed that one of their friends had a truck of the same model and year as mine. It was missing the tail light lenses… and strangely enough, one Saturday morning I was missing mine and his had miraculously grew some. So, after angrily deciding I wasn’t going to be intimidated any more, I said a silent prayer and walked over and knocked on their door at 7:30 am.
In our mass readings today (GN 21:5, 8–20A, MT 8:28–34) Abraham’s wife Sarah jealously tells him to run off his slave Hagar and his son Ishmael. God promises to continue to keep His promise to Abraham’s son Ishmael, and as Hagar and Ishmael wander through the land homeless, God provides for them. In our Gospel, Matthew gives his account of the two demoniacs who terrorize everyone who travels past them. Jesus while passing through is confronted by the demoniacs who demand, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come to torment us before the appointed time?” Jesus sends the demons into a herd of swine which promptly rush down the steep bank and drown themselves in the Sea of Galilee. The swine herders go and tell the whole story to the townsfolk who. then came out and ask Jesus to leave out of fear.
I knocked a little sheepishly at first, and then louder and more confident as no one answered the door. Oh, they were home all right… but incredibly didn’t want any of me, as they apparently knew I was ticked off. I heard and saw some movement in there, but never did anyone answer the door. I walked to my garage, picked up the screwdrivers I needed and went and transferred the lenses back onto my truck. No one, ever, said a word… period. In Hagar’s time, she hadn’t done anything wrong, servants and slaves often bore children for their masters. She and Ishmael were being wronged and she had to trust in God for ultimate justice. Sarah’s selfishness and sin wasn’t going to allow her immediate justice. The demons who had possessed the two guys in Matthew’s story, were not allowing justice, not to the men they possessed or anyone who came their way. Jesus provided justice to the people involved. The swine herder was subsequently wronged again by the demons, not because of Jesus. The townsfolk who asked Jesus to leave were no different than you and I when we live next door to a problem and just act indifferent to it or “mind our own business”.
It takes courage to stand up to injustice. Sometimes it leads to being ostracized. Sometimes it leads to more injustice, often against us. Sometimes it never gets righted. Looking back, I’m probably lucky I didn’t get my butt kicked for doing what I did… I never was very tough. Trusting in God’s help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is essential in our lives as Christians. He will tell us what to do and give us the strength to do it. Sometimes evil will temporarily win… remember the demoniacs referring to Jesus tormenting them “before the appointed time”? Jesus has already won the war against sin and death… but it seems these clean-up skirmishes must still be fought. That’s up to us, here and now, with His help. What enemy has you intimidated? What injustices do you see that you have been silent about but feel called to confront? Ask Jesus for the courage and strength of His Holy Spirit to set you free from the possession of indifference and fear. He will certainly oblige and give you what you need. Peace and All Good, my friends!