Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll downlike waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
Listen, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I. (R./)
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your burnt offerings are before me always.
I take from your house no bullock,
no goats out of your fold. (R./)
For mine are all the animals of the forests,
beasts by the thousand on my mountains.
I know all the birds of the air,
and whatever stirs in the plains, belongs to me. (R./)
If I were hungry, I should not tell you,
for mine are the world and its fullness.
Do I eat the flesh of strong bulls,
or is the blood of goats my drink? (R./)
Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
and cast my words behind you? (R./)
When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tomb met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And he said to them, "Go!" So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.
A sense of indignation runs through today's readings. Amos gives us a glimpse of God who rises up indignantly through the person of the prophet, In the midst of sacred ceremonies, carried out by duly consecrated priests and with punctilious care for each rubric, God replies: "I hate, I spurn your feasts,... I take no pleasure in your solemnities;... Away with your noisy songs." Matthew, while he tones down the bewildered commotion described by Mark, still shows the anger of Jesus against the ill-treatment of mentally handicapped people as he shouts to the demons, "Out with you!"
The Bible does not have an answer to every question, but it is very clear about God's concern for the underprivileged. It will not let distractions - even legitimate theological questions - obscure the first essential of religion, expressed so well by another prophet, Micah, in what may be called the prophetic Torah, "You have been told, O man and woman, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic 6:8).
Jesus brings two demoniacs to a greater fullness of life. It is striking that after doing this, the people of the region implored him to leave the neighbourhood. It might have been expected that they would have wanted Jesus, this man who could bring freedom to the enslaved, to stay among them for some time. Surely there were others in this region who could benefit from the presence of God's power at work in Jesus. Perhaps the people were nervous of such power for good, fearing that it might make demands on them.
We too can be tempted to ask Jesus to leave our neighbourhood, to leave our lives. We sometimes want to keep him at a distance. We sense that his nearness might be very demanding. He might call us to go out towards those who live on the margins of the community, as he himself approached the two madmen who lived among the tombs. And like them, if we welcome the Lord into our lives, rather than keeping him at a distance, he inspires us to respond to his healing influence, so that we can find fullness of life.