In The Shelter: Naming the Gadarene Demoniac

I’m currently reading Pádraig Ó Tuama‘s wonderful In the Shelter: Finding a Home In the World. His reading of this bit of the story about the Gadarene Demoniac from Mark 5 took my breath away:

Jesus asks him what his name is. The man answers:

‘ My name is Legion, for we are many.’

This can be read in so many ways. The word ‘legion’ is a militaristic word, and the Roman legion who had decamped to this particular geographic area bore the boar as their standard on their banners. This answer of the anonymous man can also be understood simply, and powerfully, as an indication of the dignity of language.

‘What is your name?’ he was asked. And he answered, ‘I am what has afflicted me.’ How many of us know the truth of this? When we are towards the end of ourselves, we begin to believe that we are only what we struggle with. The man here tells us a truth that is awful – we baptise ourselves with names that are far from the only truth about ourselves.

What a beautiful lesson here – that what is true about each of us is far more than the struggles that we so often identify with. I am far more than my sin or my worry or my illness. I am a beloved child of God, and Jesus sees, and calls me to see, that truth transcending my afflictions.

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