Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll downlike waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tomb met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And he said to them, "Go!" So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.
In the Old Testament God's compassion is the dominant intuition. God is personally concerned, kindly disposed towards repentant sinners, faithful in looking after the poor and needy, strong in defending people oppressed and abused by social injustices. Amos offers a view of God rising up indignantly through the person of the prophet, In the midst of sacred ceremonies, carried out with punctilious care by duly consecrated priests, God shouts: "I hate, I spurn your feasts. I take no pleasure in your solemnities. Away with your noisy songs. I will not listen to your melodies." Matthew, while he tones down the bewildered commotion described by Mark, shows the anger of Jesus against the ill-treatment of mentally handicapped people as he shouts to the demons, "Out with you!"
The Bible does not seek to answer every problem, but it is clear about God's concern for the underprivileged. It will not let distractions - even legitimate theological questions - obscure the first essential of religion, expressed so well by another prophet, Micah, in what may be called the prophetic Torah, "You have been told, O man and woman, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic 6:8).
Jesus brings two demoniacs back to sanity and a normal life. It is striking that after doing this, the people of the region beged him to leave the neighbourhood. One would think that they would want Jesus, this man who could bring freedom to the enslaved, to stay among them for some time. Surely there were others in this region who could benefit from God's power at work in Jesus. Perhaps the people were nervous of such power for good, fearing that it might make demands on them.
We too can be tempted to ask Jesus to leave our neighbourhood, to leave our lives. We sometimes want to keep him at a distance. We sense that his nearness might be very demanding. He might call us to go out towards those who live on the edge of the community, as he himself went out towards the two demoniacs who lived among the tombs. Yet, if we welcome the Lord into our lives, rather than keeping him at a distance, we will discover that he gives us the strength to respond to the challenging call of his presence and in responding to that call we too will find a greater fullness of life. [MH]