Chp 186 The Demoniacs of Gadara.
11th June 1945.
The vision «The calming of the storm» which you saw on 30th January 1944, is to be put here. Then the following vision.
Jesus, after crossing the lake from northwest to southeast, asks Peter to land near Hippos. Peter obeys without discussing and takes the boat down to the mouth of a little river, which is in flood because of the springtime rains and of the recent storm and flows into the lake through one of the wild rocky gorges common to this coastal area. The assistants - there is one in each boat - fasten the boats and are ordered to wait until evening to go back to Capernaum.
«And be as dumb as an ox» suggests Peter. «If they ask you where the Master is, reply without hesitation: "I don't know". And if anyone wants to know where He is going to, give the same reply. In any case it is the truth, for you don't know.»
They part and Jesus begins to ascend a steep path which climbs the almost upright cliff. The apostles follow Him along a very hard path up to the summit of the cliff which levels over to a tableland strewn with oak-trees under which there are many pigs pasturing.
«Stinking animals!» exclaims Bartholomew. «They prevent us from passing…»
«No, they do not. There is room for everybody» replies Jesus calmly.
In any case the swineherds, when they see the Israelites, endeavour to gather the pigs under the oak-trees, leaving the path free. And the apostles pass by, making endless grimaces, among the filth left by the grouting animals, which fat as they are, seem anxious to become even fatter.
Jesus passes without any fuss, saying to the swineherds: «May God reward you for your kindness.»
The swineherds, poor people not much cleaner than their pigs but infinitely thinner, look at Him amazed and then whisper to one another. One of them says: «Is He perhaps not an Israelite?» And the others reply to him: «Don't you see that His tunic is fringed?»
The group of the apostles gather together, now that they can proceed in one group along a fairly wide path.
The view is beautiful. Only a few score of feet above the lake, it commands a view over the whole lake with the towns spread along its shores. Tiberias is splendid with its beautiful buildings on the opposite shore facing the apostles. Below this spot, at the foot of the basaltic cliff, the short beach looks like a green pillow, whereas on the opposite shore, from Tiberias to the mouth of the Jordan, there is a rather widespread marshy plain due to the river having difficulty in resuming its course after delaying in the placid lake. But the plain looks like a garden, because it is so thick with marsh flora, and is densely populated with colourful variegated water fowl, which seem bedecked with jewels. The birds rise from the thick grass and from the reed-thickets, they fly over the lake, they dive into it to steal a fish from its water, and they rise even more brilliant, because the water has brightened up their plumage, and then they fly back to the plain where the wind plays swaying its many-coloured flowers.
Up here, instead, there are woods of very tall oak-trees, under which the grass is soft and emerald-green, and beyond this strip of woods, on the other side of a large valley, the mountain climbs again, forming a very steep rocky summit, on which houses rise, built on terraces. I think that the mountain side and the walls of the houses are all one, for its caves are used as dwellings, in a mixture of a troglodyte and ordinary village. It is a village characteristic of structures on large rising terraces, so that the roof of the house on the terrace below is at the height of the ground entrance of the terrace above it. On the sides where the mountain is very steep, so steep that no house can be built there, there are caves, deep crevices and descents dropping down to the valley. In the season of downpours the descents must become as many whimsical little torrents. All kinds of blocks, which the floods have rolled down to the valley, form a chaotic pedestal for the little mountain which is so wild and steep, hunchbacked and overbearing that it looks like a squire who wants to be respected at all costs.
«Is that not Gamala?» asks the Zealot.
«Yes, it is Gamala. Do you know the town?» says Jesus.
«I was a fugitive there, one night, a long time ago. Then I was affected by leprosy and I did not come out of the sepulchres any more.»
«Did they pursue you so far?»
«I was coming from Syria, where I had gone seeking protection. But they discovered me and only my flight to this place saved me from being captured. Afterwards slowly and continuously threatened I went down as far as the desert of Tekoa and from there, suffering already from leprosy, to the Valley of the Dead. Leprosy saved me from my enemies…»
«These people are heathens, are they not?» asks the Iscariot.
«Almost everybody. Only a few Jews are here on business, and then there is a mixture of beliefs, or no beliefs at all. But they did not treat the fugitive badly.»
«These are places for bandits. What gorges!» exclaim many.
«Yes, but believe me, there are more bandits on the other side» says John who is still impressed by the capture of the Baptist.
«On the other side there are bandits also among those who enjoy the reputation of being just» concludes his brother.
Jesus begins to speak: «And yet we go near them without feeling disgusted. Whereas here you were making grimaces because you had to pass near some animals.»
«They are unclean…»
«A sinner is much more so. These animals are made like that, and it is not their fault if they are like that. Man instead is responsible for being unclean because of his sins.»
«Why, then, are they classified as unclean for us?» asks Philip.
«I have mentioned that once. In this commandment there is a supernatural reason and a natural one. The former reason is to teach the chosen people to live bearing in mind its election and the dignity of man, also in a common action like eating. A savage feeds on everything. It is enough for him to fill his stomach. A pagan, even if he is not a savage, also eats everything, without considering that overeating foments vices and inclinations which degrade man. Nay, pagans endeavor to arrive at this frenzy for pleasure, which is almost a religion for them. The more learned amongst you are aware of obscene celebrations in honor of their gods, which degenerate into lecherous orgies. A son of the people of God must be able to control himself, perfecting himself through obedience and prudence, bearing in mind his origin and his end: God and Heaven. The natural reason is not to stimulate the blood by means of food that causes a heat unbecoming of man, who is not forbidden also carnal love, but must always moderate it with the freshness of his soul tending to Heaven. Man must therefore make sure that the sentiment that joins him to his wife, in whom he must see a fellow creature like himself, not a female, is love, not sensuality. But the poor animals are neither guilty of being pigs nor of the effects that the flesh of pigs may cause in man's blood in the long run. And the swineherds are much less guilty. If they are honest, what difference will there be, in the next life, between them and the scribe who is bent over his books but does not learn to be good? I solemnly tell you that we shall see swineherds among the just and scribes among the unjust. But what is ruining?»
They all move away from the side of the mountain because stones and earth are rolling down and bouncing on the slope and they all look around amazed.
«There, there! Over there! Two men completely naked… are coming towards us gesticulating. Mad…»
«Or demoniacs» replies Jesus to the Iscariot, who was the first to see the two demoniacs come towards Jesus.
They must have come out of some cave on the mountain side. They are howling. And one, who is running faster, rushes towards Jesus. He is running so fast and moving his arms up and down so much as if they were wings, that he looks like a strange ugly big bird stripped of its feathers. He collapses at Jesus' feet shouting: «You are here, Master of the world? What have I got to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Has the hour of our punishment already come? Why have You come to torture us before the time?» The other demoniac, both because his tongue is tied and because he is possessed by a demon who causes him to be dullwitted, does nothing but throw himself on the ground, face down, and weep. He then sits up, remains inert, playing with little stones and his bare feet. The demon continues to speak through the lips of the other man who writhes on the ground in a paroxysm of terror. I would say that he wants to react, whereas he can but worship, attracted and rejected at the same time by Jesus' power. He howls: «I entreat You in the name of God, stop tormenting me. Let me go.»
«Yes. But out of this man. Unclean spirit, go out of them and tell Me your name.»
«Legion is my name because we are many. We have possessed these men for years and through them we break bonds and chains, and there is no strength of man capable of holding them. They are a terror, because of us, and we make use of them to have You cursed. We revenge ourselves on them for Your anathema. We degrade man below a beast to mock at You and there is no wolf, jackal, hyaena, vulture or vampire like these which we possess. But don't cast us out. Hell is too horrid!…»
«Go out! In the name of Jesus, go out!» Jesus' voice thunders and His eyes fire splendour.
«At least let us go into the herd of pigs You met.»
With a beastly howl the demons part from the two wretched men and in a sudden whirlwind, which causes the oak-trees to sway like reeds, they run into the large herd of pigs that with real demoniac cries begin to run, as possessed beings, through the oak-trees, pushing, wounding, biting one another and hurl themselves into the lake, when, after reaching the edge of the cliff, they have but the water below as a shelter. The swineherds are overwhelmed and dumbfounded and while they shout seized by fear, hundreds of animals fall headlong into the calm water in a succession of splashes, causing the water to surge and foam; they sink, refloat, showing in turn their round bellies or their pointed snouts with terrified eyes, and in the end get drowned. The swineherds run towards the town howling.
The apostles go towards the place of the disaster and come back saying: «Not one of them is saved! He has done them a bad turn.»
Jesus replies calmly: «It is better if two thousand pigs perish than one man. Give them some clothes. They cannot stay like that.»
The Zealot opens his bag and gives one of his tunics. Thomas gives another one. The two men are still somewhat stunned as if they were just awaking from a sound sleep full of nightmares.
«Give them some food. Let them go back to the normal life of men.»
Jesus watches them, while they eat the bread and olives given to them and they drink out of Peter's flask.
At last they speak: «Who are You?» asks one.
«Jesus of Nazareth.»
«We don't know You» says the other.
«Your souls know Me. Get up now and go home.»
«We have suffered very much, I think, but I cannot remember very well. Who is this man?» asks the one who spoke on behalf of the demon, and he points at his companion. «I do not know. He was with you.»
«Who are you? Why are you here?» he asks his companion.
The one who was dumb, and is still more inert, says: «I am Demetrius. Is this Sidon?»
«Sidon is on the sea, man. Here you are beyond the lake of Galilee.»
«Why am I here?»
Nobody can reply. Some people are arriving followed by the swineherds. They look frightened and curious. When they see the two men dressed and tidy, their astonishment increases.
«That is Mark of Josiah!… And that is the son of the heathen merchant!…»
«And He is the one who cured them and caused our pigs to perish, because they became mad when the demons entered them» say the swineherds.
«Lord, You are powerful, we admit it. But You have already caused us too much harm! A damage of many talents. Go away, please, lest Your power should bring the mountain down and hurl it into the lake. Go away…»
«I will go. I do not impose Myself on anybody» and Jesus, without further discussion goes back the way He came.
The demoniac who spoke follows Him, behind the apostles. Farther back, at some distance, there are many citizens watching whether He is really leaving.
They go down the steep path back to the mouth of the little torrent, near the boats. The citizens remain on the terrace watching. The demoniac who has been cured goes down behind Jesus.
In the boats the assistants are terrified. They saw the pigs raining into the lake and are still contemplating their bodies which surface more and more numerous, more and more swollen, with their round bellies in the air and their stiff short legs like four pegs stuck into a huge fat bladder. «What happened?» they ask.
«We will tell you later. Loosen the boats and let us go… Where, my Lord?»
«To the gulf of Tarichea.»
The man who has followed them, now that he sees them getting into the boats, implores: «Take me with You, Lord.»
«No. Go home: your relatives are entitled to have you. Speak to them of the great things the Lord has done to you and tell them how He had mercy on you. This area is in need of faith. Light the flames of faith out of gratitude to the Lord. Go. Goodbye.»
«Comfort me at least with Your blessing, that the demon may not possess me again.»
«Be not afraid. If you do not want, he will not come. But I bless you. Go in peace.»
The boats depart from the shore westwards. Only then, when the boats are ploughing through the waters strewn with the swine victims, the inhabitants of the town, which did not want the Lord, withdraw from the terrace and go away.
Peace be with you always