Leave us alone – Fourth Sunday of the Year (B)

As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, a poor demented man created a scene. He cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?’ In effect what the man was saying was, ‘Leave me alone! I’m not good. I’m evil. I’m not worthy of love or care.

It’s a cry we hear more than once in the Gospel from people who believed they were possessed by devils. ‘Don’t meddle with us. Leave us alone. Don’t try to change us.’ They recognized that change is painful. Whether they were actually possessed by devils we do not know. But what we do know is that they were sick, broken, isolated, unloved people, who had no dignity and whose self-worth was nil.

There are many such people in our world today — in our prisons, in our psychiatric hospitals and so on. Any of us can be caught in some desperate situation. At least the man in the synagogue didn’t try to hide how he was. He came to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t put off by his desperate cry. In the cry, ‘Leave me alone!’ Jesus heard a cry for help. And he cured him, People find it hard to admit that they can’t manage their problems. Pride tells them: I should be able to handle my own problems. Recognition that there is a problem is the first step towards rehabilitation. The acknowledgement of our weakness and need would open the way to recovery. It’s the courageous ones that go for counselling.

Psychologists tell us that sometimes people don’t really want to be cured. Why is this? Because a cure can be painful, it involves a process which requires a lot of change, and all change is painful. The idea of recovery can even be terrifying.

Often we are afraid to talk about something that is hurting us. We keep it locked up inside us where it festers. We may not say, ‘Leave me alone,’ but that is what it amounts to: ‘You wouldn’t know, you couldn’t possibly understand.’ Unvoiced suffering is more harrowing than suffering that cries aloud.

Shortly after the birth of her son, a young mother discovered that he was blind. She called her family together and said, ‘I don’t want my child to know that he is blind.’ She insisted that from that point on everyone should avoid using words such as ‘light’, ‘colour’, and ‘sight’. The child grew up believing that he was like everyone else until one day a strange girl jumped over the garden wall and used all the forbidden words.

The story symbolizes much of our behaviour. We all seek to hide what is strange and painful, and to act as if things are normal. We act as if we had no problems, no abnormalities, no pains, no wounds, no failures. This urge to hide is very powerful and can be more harmful than what it tries to conceal.

When we have the courage to face our problems, new creative energies became available to us. Fear, shame, and guilt often make us stay in isolation. It is by showing our wounds, by allowing ourselves to touch and be touched that we are healed. It is in our brokenness, our woundedness, that God heals us — if we give him a chance.

Let us with confidence bring our needs before the Lord, knowing that He will listen to our cries as Jesus listened to the cry of the sick man in the synagogue.