This week’s Gospel Luke 8:26-39 deals with images and metaphors that can take us down so many real and imaginary paths. For some the reading suggests different meanings at different levels. What do we imagine when we think of demons and evil and the blessed freedom from those things that can “paralyze” us?
The story describes a possessed man who begs Jesus to free him of demons that have held him hostage and have prevented him from engaging in a normal existence much less, a life. It also describes the man’s gratitude after he is released and how that gratitude manifests in his desire to stay with Jesus and follow him. Jesus, however, sends him away and tells him to now “return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
This last sentence made me wonder how many times we work our way out of something that bothers us or keeps us from doing what we want or need to do, and forget to give God the credit, even after we’ve prayed or asked God’s help. What about the times we work ourselves free without our even asking His help, and take all the credit…when in fact He was there all along?
Some years ago we were visiting our family back home. In the early years, we routinely visited my mother-in-law whose worsened dementia confined her to a nursing home. Sadly, she no longer recognized us and, short of making a one word comment, was incapable of speaking. On one of our trips back we received a call from the nursing home to tell us that my mother-in-law had fallen and had broken her arm, and was now en route to the hospital by ambulance. My brother-in-law and I quickly made our way to the hospital just minutes before she arrived. It was not hard to know that she was being wheeled in to the emergency room…her painful wail echoed through the hall. The EMTs and accompanying physician were beside themselves. Despite being medicated and restrained, she was virtually impossible to subdue. We both approached the gurney each took her hand. My mother-in-law looked at me and to all our astonishment, said “Bob, please help me; it hurts so much.” I told her that the doctors would fix her arm and relieve her pain, which was more terror than anything else, and that she should just try to calm down. She said, “OK” and was wheeled to the treatment area. We were all amazed at what had just transpired. I don’t remember what I said or if I said anything. I do remember speculating that it was likely the pain that enabled her dislocated “brain connections” to fire properly and restore her speech and recognition. This restoration unfortunately, was short-lived. When we all anxiously visited her in the nursing home to which she had returned the next day, we found that she had retreated back to the “place” she was before.
Until now, I was quick to credit science with a glib explanation and never once thought to give credit to God, who heard our unspoken prayers. Return home and tell how much God has done for you.