I'll admit it, I haven't thought about the Sunday readings as much as I ought to have, this week. I've been thinking instead about the woman who got a hard diagnosis last week, the young boy who is having heart surgery, the family of the woman who died of a rare disease, the two funerals this week. I've been thinking about another person I heard about who has Alzheimers, about someone I know who is having a leg amputated.
On facebook, one of my friends requested prayers because her cancer (which was in remission) has come back and has metastisized. She's a young woman, in her twenties, I think. At least count, I think there were 36 comments, promises to pray for her.
And of course, there's the oil spill in the Gulf, a story which seems to have no ending, just more polluting, more desecration.
When I've glanced at the gospel story, the only thing that really sticks out is the name of the demon occupying the man. "My name is Legion," he tells Jesus. This could mean a lot of things. Most obviously, "legion" means a lot. A Legion was somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 Roman soldiers. There are a lot of demons in this poor man who resides in the strange Gentile territory.
Legion could also be a kind of reference to the Roman occupation. Just as the Romans occupy Judea, so this man is "occupied" -- by the forces of evil. His name is legion. He's occupied by a foreign army.
So, I'm thinking about the man called "Legion" in this strange story, and right now it's the only thing that makes sense to me. Yeah. The evil, the pain, the struggles in this world are Legion. There are so many of them. Sometimes they seem far away from us -- and then, suddenly, one of our friends gets sick, or we get sick, or someone we know goes to Afghanistan, or Iraq -- and we realize the truth of the word "Legion."
Besides "Legion", I've been thinking a lot about prayer this week. I've been thinking about the different kinds of prayer, and how I wish it was just so easy as it looks in the story from Luke. Jesus casts out the demons, and they go.
Because that's not how prayer goes for us, at least most of the time, is it?
In our heads we understand that God isn't a cosmic slot machine, where we put in a prayer, and he gives us what we want. But in our hearts it's hard to understand sometimes: after all, what could be wrong with a person recovering from cancer, getting better, getting up? What could be wrong with that? If we can't count on God to answer our prayers, what good does it do? And if our prayers aren't answered spectacularly all the time, does that mean we are bad Christians?
And if our prayers aren't answered spectacularly all the time, why bother?
Why do we pray, anyway?
Why does the woman on facebook, inhabited by a Legion of cancer cells request our prayers? She knows when she gathers the troops that she may be healed, but she may not be. It's not a sure thing. But still she asks us to pray for her, because whether she is healed or not, she believes, she knows, that something powerful is going on.
I am preparing for Sunday now, praying and thinking, and studying a little (maybe not enough), and wondering about the Legions of evil in the world, the Legions of suffering, and the power to cast it out.