Tomorrow’s Gospel recounts Jesus healing a demon-possessed man, and while reading it I was struck by one word:
In the passage a demon screams out to Christ:
“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”
How strange that this demon speaks not in the singular but in the plural? How odd that its identity is grounded not on unity but on dissonance?
We see the same mode of speech later on when Jesus heals another demon-possessed man in Gerasene. There the Lord asks, “What is your name?” and the demon replies:
“My name is Legion for we are many.”
In both cases, this plural language reveals an important fact: all evil is based on division. Demonic forces take a man, whole and complete, and rip him apart, dividing him into discord. The very etymology of the word “diabolical” confirms this. According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the word comes from two Greek words, “dia” and “ballein”, which together can mean “to tear apart” or “to scatter”.
The demon-possessed man in tomorrow’s Gospel stands torn between a life of goodness and a life of evil. Much like us, his will is scattered, tugging and pulling him in many different directions. We want to be temperate, but our appetite screams for food. We want to be chaste, but our bodies seem programmed to lust. We want to pray deeply, but our scattered minds fight against it.
This disparate evil, this Diablo, is ordered toward chaos. But as the passage shows, God wants the opposite. He wants us to be saints. And a saint, like Christ’s friend Mary, is someone focused on “the one thing necessary.”
Jesus therefore refuses to acknowledge the demon’s split identity. He treats him as an individual and in doing so unifies all his fragmented passions:
“[Jesus] rebuked it, saying, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’”
In this passage, we recognize Jesus the Great Unifier who fights congruity and battles against all that scatters and divides. He’s the Gatherer of the nations, the Shepherd of one flock, the Head of one body, who binds our disordered passions and heals all demonic division.
Be free, He says, of all that separates. Be free of all that tugs you in multiple directions. Be free of the discord that characterizes all evil.
Then you will be whole. Then you will be ordered toward the One Thing necessary. Then you will be a saint.
(Image credit: CCC Choir Notes)