July 9, 2023

Homily One for the Fifth Sunday of Matthew (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On the Healing of the Possessed Gadarene

Mark 5:1-20

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on September 4, 1947 - Thursday of the 13th week after Pentecost)

In today's Gospel reading (Mark 5:1-20) you heard about the healing of the possessed Gadarene by the Lord Jesus Christ.

He was possessed by a legion of demons. What does legion mean? This is a large part of the ancient Roman army, approximately corresponding to the modern army. An army of demons took possession of the unfortunate inhabitant of Gadarene and made him demon-possessed, truly the strongest of all the demon-possessed.

Maybe someone will ask how an entire army can fit in one person? Perhaps, maybe, because demons are not material, they are incorporeal spirits, they do not occupy space in space, they can fit as many as you like in one place - even in the human heart. His possession by demons was expressed by unusual riot and frenzy, he tore off iron chains like thread, and day and night he cut himself with stones. But demon possession does not always manifest itself in this form, in the form of violent insanity. Much more often, incomparably more often it happens in another form.

Demons move into a person’s heart and behave quietly there, a person does not even suspect that demons live in his heart, especially if this person denies everything spiritual, the very existence of demons: he deprives himself of the opportunity to notice the presence of what he does not believe in.

So much the worse for him. If a person does not want to know about demons, does not believe in their existence, they have complete freedom to act in his heart, because he does not take precautions, does not fight them, as all the saints fought, who resolutely repelled demonic attacks in their hearts, knowing how to distinguish in their hearts the actions of demons from the actions of angels, from the actions of the Holy Spirit. It is amazing how subtly they were able to recognize the action of demons in their hearts and knew the means of dealing with them.

And ordinary people, even Christians who do not reject the existence of demons, do not realize that they are possessed by demons to such an extent. There are many possessed, but they rage much more subtly, and the demons act not at all as roughly as in the soul and body of the unfortunate possessed Gadarene. And everyone should know that there is not a day when the demons would not try to lead us from the path of good to the path of evil, to the path of lies. They try with all their might to do this, day after day, hour after hour, they act subtly and craftily in our hearts, for they live in them, for we too are possessed by demons. We need to know how to recognize the presence of demons in our own hearts, because if we do not know how to recognize their presence, we will not be able to fight against them.

Know that every time your conscience is troubled, disturbed and torments you, it is she who warns that demons are leading you astray from the path of truth.

Know that whenever you get angry, swear, fight against your loved ones, when evil and hatred boils in your heart, know that demons are working in your heart. Catch yourself, make the sign of the cross and start the fight against demons.

Know that every time you lie, calumniate, slander the good name of your neighbors, gossip, try to harm your neighbors - know that demons are working in your heart.

Remember the demon-possessed man of Gadarene, understand that you too are possessed by demons. Every time when your soul is restless, when you feel an impure burning sensation in your heart, when you do not feel peace in your heart, know that demons live in it.

People who have always struggled with demons, people who have not experienced malice in their hearts, are always peaceful, always live in the deep, unperturbed holy peace of God, and their conscience does not torment them.

Know that when you do not feel peace in your heart - know that demons live in it - it is an unclean dwelling of demons. Observe yourself, as the saints, who have always tested their hearts, have always monitored its condition, have always been vigilant, so that the peace and tranquility in their hearts are not disturbed. Know and remember that you must always fight demons.

Remember the words of the holy Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).

In this struggle against the demons that fight you, there is only one strength - the Lord and the power of His might, before which all demons bow down. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spirits of wickedness in high places” (vv. 11-12 ). The apostle Paul calls the devil and demons principalities, authorities, world rulers of this age.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v. 13). To stand on that evil day when demons will dwell in your heart, when you were furious with anger and offended your neighbors, were annoyed with them and devised how to destroy them.

“Stand therefore, girding your loins with truth, and putting on the breastplate of justice” (v. 14). They must be girded with the truth, the truth of Christ. You must be as in steel armor, wearing the armor of righteousness and holiness.

“And having shod his feet in readiness to preach peace” (v. 15). One must always strive, so that your feet are always ready to go where you need to preach peace, and not sow malice.

“Above all, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one” (v. 16). The shield of faith, unshakable faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Trinity is a shield against which all the arrows that the evil one sends will be broken and extinguished.

“And take the helmet of salvation (that salvation which is received freely from the Lord Jesus Christ), and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). We know how the Lord Jesus Christ repelled Satan, who tempted Him in the desert, with words from Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture, the word of God, is the sword with which we can strike the spiritual enemy.

“Pray with every prayer and supplication at all times in the Spirit” (v. 18). Prayer, like nothing else, protects us from demons.

“Be diligent about this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (v. 18). Not only about yourself - pray for all your neighbors, for all those Christians who strive to follow the path of Christ. “And about me, that the word might be given to me with my mouth openly with boldness to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (v. 19).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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