St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
21st Sunday After Pentecost

21st Sunday after Pentecost

 (Luke 8:26-39)

In today’s Holy Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ and his disciples sailed to the country of the Gadarenes on the opposite shore from Galilee. When our Lord entered into this land, He came upon a man who was demon possessed – who went about naked among the tombs. This man was so fierce and so feared that he was kept in chains and shackles, bonds which he often broke through in his ferocity and demonically fueled strength. As soon as our Lord came near, the man possessed by the demons cried out, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!’ Christ confronted the demons possessing the man and asked: ‘What is your name?’ The demons replied, ‘Legion’, for there were many demons possessing the man.

This legion of demons possessing the man could not bear the authority and light of our Lord and at His command they were forced to flee into a herd of pigs, which then went crashing headlong off the cliffs and into the water.

And then we are told something very interesting… and perhaps surprising. The herdsmen fled and told all of these things to the people of the city and when they came, they found the man who had been possessed clothed, and in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus. One would think that they would rejoice… for this dangerous man, who had tormented them with his wild behavior was now healed and at peace. But instead, we are told that the people, upon seeing this, were afraid and asked our Lord to leave their country.

Why would this be? Gospel commentators offer several explanations. One is the worldly concern of the Gadarenes, who were making their living off of the raising and selling of the herds of swine. Though our Lord had performed a great miracle in healing the man possessed by demons, they were more concerned about the financial impact of the loss of their herd of swine.

Another explanation speaks about the shame which confronted the people when our Lord sent the demons into the pigs. It was not proper that the Gadarenes would be raising and selling swine, for this was contrary to the law of Moses. When they were confronted with the work of God – healing the man possessed by demons and the destruction of their inappropriate means of living – they were ashamed and frightened, and they asked Christ to leave them.

Before speaking further about this issue of shame, let’s turn to another occasion in the Gospels where our Lord performs a miracle, and the reaction prompts one to ask Him to depart from their presence.

In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of St Luke, our Lord is in the boat of the Apostle Peter and he instructs him to go out into the deeper water and to cast his nets for fish. Peter, who was an experienced fisherman, had been toiling all night without a catch, and he knew that there was no point in casting their nets at this time of day. Nevertheless, he obeys the Lord. The tremendous haul of fish is such that their nets begin to tear from the weight!


And now, we have this scene… Peter falls at the feet of Jesus and says: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ Again… following the manifestation of His grace and miraculous power, our Lord is asked to depart from the presence of the one who witnesses this miracle. The Apostle Peter falls upon his knees in shame and recognition of his sinfulness and unworthiness to be in the presence of God.

Obviously, there is a great difference between the reaction of the Gadarenes and the reaction of the Apostle Peter. They both felt a sense of shame in the presence of the holiness of our Lord. They both initially reacted by asking Him to depart from their presence. But there is a shame which leads to healing and a shame which leads to damnation.

Shame is an exposure of our sinfulness. And let me be clear that this is the case I am addressing here… We may experience other sources of shame that are not the result of our sin… shame may be laid upon us by the manipulations and cruelty of those who try to pass off their own guilt onto us. I am not speaking about that here. The Gospel examples and the cases I am speaking about today are a recognition of our own sin. Our modern culture has done much to banish a healthy sense of shame from our consciences – telling us shame is always bad and leading us to the shamelessness we see so rampant in our world today.

But dear brothers and sisters, I want to speak of the soul-profiting shame which speaks to us from our conscience. When we feel ashamed, we are caught in a moment of vulnerability, of guiltiness, of nakedness. That is an uncomfortable state of being – no wonder we don’t like it! But the key to whether our shame can lead to our healing or to our damnation depends on what happens next.

Do we hide from this exposure by justifying ourselves? Or by denying our guilt? Or by attempting to turn the tables and accusing others? There are many ways in which we might run from the spotlight of our shame and humiliation. The Gadarenes refused to face their sin and told Christ to depart from their country.

And what about Apostle Peter? He was certainly convicted by his sinfulness in the presence of Christ’s miracle. But in that moment of shame and nakedness, he fell down on his knees before the Lord. Yes, he cried out: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.’ This was an expression of his shame and humiliation… but it was a shame and a humiliation that he dared to face and for which he prostrated before Christ… and Christ immediately forgave him and restored him, saying: ‘Do not be afraid.’

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… there is nothing so difficult as facing our sin and shame. We will go to great lengths to avoid such humiliation. But in facing our sins, in honestly recognizing the ways in which we fall short of the glory of God, we have the opportunity to embrace the shame which saves us. And Christ our Lord will never turn away from our sincere repentance – no matter what we may have done.

Let us take courage from the words of our Lord to St Peter: ‘Do not be afraid.’ Let us not be ashamed to be ashamed! If only we understood and fully trusted in the lovingkindness of our God, we would not hesitate to run to him in complete exposure and nakedness, falling on our knees before Him and asking for His mercy. And Christ our Lord will gently reach down to us and wrap us in the warmth of the cloak of His forgiveness and grace… if only we will have the courage and the humility to allow Him.


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