Today’s Gospel ends with a tragic request. The whole town of the Gadarenes come out to see what Jesus has done and they beg him to leave. From a worldly perspective, it is wasteful to have an entire herd of swine drown. We could speculate that Jesus could have found a less wasteful way of getting rid of the demons that were possessing those two men. Jesus is not obliged to do what the demons tell him to do after all. Certainly, liberating these two men from the influence of evil spirits was not only good for them, it would also have been good for the townspeople who were unable to travel by the road because of how savage the possessed men were.
The interaction between Lot and Abram is interesting. The Fathers of the Church, and especially St. Ambrose delved deeply into the moral sense of the story. How are we supposed to deal with conflict? Some people basically avoid it, other people like it. We know that both meekness and courage collaborate in a prudent response to disputes and hostility. St. Ambrose tells us that the name “Lot” is interpreted in Latin to mean, “declinatio” or deviation. A deviation can be for good or for evil, but it represents a departure from the present course. Abram, wisely, understood that a departure was necessary. Even though there was no dispute between Lot and himself, he understood that if they went their separate ways they could remain friends. Sometimes a good friend makes a terrible roommate. But notice the humility of Abram when they separate – even though Abram is the one being magnanimous, even though he is the elder, he calls Lot his brother and therefore makes him his equal. In some ways this story reminds me of the prodigal son and his father. Abram is willing to let Lot have the first choice of land because he values peace and quiet most of all. Abram is already rich because he is satisfied with what he has – whereas we do not read that Lot is rich even though he has many possessions. Abram relies on God’s promise to provide, so, without judging Lot, he gives him freedom and space with the hopes that he too will become satisfied.
Martha was busy satisfying the needs of those who were hungry and thirsty. With deep concern, she prepared what the Holy of Holies and his saints would eat and drink in her house. It was an important but transitory work. It will not always be necessary to eat and drink, will it? When we cling to the most pure and perfect Goodness, serving will not be a necessity.
To cling always to God and to the things of God—this must be our major effort, this must be the road that the heart follows unswervingly. Any diversion, however impressive, must be regarded as secondary, low-grade and certainly dangerous. Martha and Mary provide a most beautiful scriptural paradigm of this outlook and of this mode of activity. In looking after the Lord and his disciples, Martha did a very holy service. Mary, however, was intent on the spiritual teaching of Jesus, and she stayed by his feet, which she kissed and anointed with the oil of her good faith.… In saying “Mary chose the good portion,” he was saying nothing about Martha, and in no way was he giving the appearance of criticizing her. Still, by praising Mary he was saying that the other was a step below her. Again, by saying “it will not be taken away from her,” he was showing that Martha’s role could be taken away from her, since the service of the body can only last as long as the human being is there, whereas the zeal of Mary can never end.