Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Called to Make Noise

Most of those who comment on the story of the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5:1-20 focus their reflection on the reaction of the villagers. They see the afflicted man, clothed and sane, and they are afraid. Then they hear about their lost pigs, and they plead with Jesus to leave. They would rather have the poor soul still possessed by demons if it would give them back their herd of swine. Their priorities are grossly misplaced.

There are two points, however, from the last few verses that I rarely see anybody raise.

First, the man is not told to remain silent about what has been done for him. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we repeatedly see Jesus heal people only to turn around and tell them to keep it a secret. The reason for the messianic secrecy is not clear, but it might have to do with Jesus recognizing that too much publicity could create crowds that would have a negative impact on his ministry. Jesus doesn’t do this with the Gerasene, through. To him, he says, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” Not only does he not command him to secrecy, he tells him to talk about it!

The second point is a vocational one. The Gerasene, having been rid of his demons, wanted to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. Jesus had a different mission for him, though. This, I think, highlights the idea that vocational discernment, while personal and subjective to the individual, is not purely private. Some might think that they are called or want to be called to a religious vocation. God, however, might have different plans. Vocational discernment, then, should never be a case of a young man saying, “I want to be a priest,” or an older man saying, “I want to be a deacon.” Rather, it should be a case of the man saying, “I think that I’m being called.” At that point, the Church must help the soul who thinks that God is calling him to discover just what vocation God is calling him to embrace. It’s possible that, like the Gerasene, the call is to be a light to friends and family rather than to ordained service.

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