Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus goes into the country of the Gerasenes and is confronted by a man with an unclean spirit, who is chained and living among the tombs.
Why has the man been chained? Is he there on the outskirts of the town for a reason? Philosopher René Girard has written persuasively on the theme of scapegoating violence. Scapegoats perform an important function in the maintenance of human societies, effectively channeling away the competition and violence that would, otherwise, tear a community apart.
And thus the Gerasene demoniac is chained to keep him close. Can we not imagine the citizens of the town coming out to gawk at the poor soul? The tortured man calls himself Legion, for there are “many” in him. Could the many in question be the citizens of the town who have projected their hateful shadows onto him?
By curing the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus announces his intention to break the pattern of scapegoating, and thus to show the people of the village a new way of being in community. Instead of projecting their violence and negativity onto an innocent other, they should turn to the difficult but ultimately soul-enlarging task of self-criticism and conversion.