There is a wild story in the Gospel of Mark that begins with Jesus walking along, traveling from town to town as he was known to do, and ends with a couple thousand pigs hurtling to their deaths.
Like I said, wild.
In the middle of those two seemingly disconnected bookends is a man so wracked and tortured by demons that not only has he been rejected by family, friends and his community but in their fear they frequently attempt to chain him up. The strength of the demons is so all-consuming though that he cannot be bound or contained. The man appears to be destined to live out his days in as sorry an existence as one could imagine while his community can do nothing but stand by and watch.
Then along comes Jesus.
Somewhere in the depth of this shell of a being there must have been something left. There must have been a shred of the divine child he was created to be. A smoldering ember of the holy spark we are all gifted with at the moment the Father dreams us into being.
There must have been something left of the man he once was, because at the sight of the Healer that mustard seed of faith manages to move mountains. Somehow he is able to overcome the power of the demons and propel his body to the feet of Jesus.
Jesus is neither alarmed or surprised. Maybe he knows we will all end up at his feet one way or another.
He does not address the man. He knows the demons are still in control.
And the demons know they are about to lose.
They begin to beg. Asking not to be swept into oblivion but for an opportunity to take up residence in a herd of swine grazing nearby.
Before Jesus sends them on their way though, he asks the demon's name.
The cryptic, bone-chilling answer is, "My name is Legion, for we are many."
The man is healed. And for reasons that aren't clear, Jesus grants the demon's request and sends the evil spirits into the unsuspecting pigs who promptly run down the hill and drown themselves.
I'll say it again, it's a wild, wild story.
But it's the story I often go to when I feel desperate to understand why awful, awful, awful things happen in this world.
My name is Legion, for we are many.
The thing is, Jesus never seems surprised that there is evil in the world. He is confronted with it right and left during his time on earth, never more so than in his own violent death, and he is never surprised.
He just continues to move in and amongst the people- healing, touching, forgiving, teaching, blessing and loving.
He moved through the world as the ultimate antidote to evil with his Resurrection putting the final nail in death's coffin. So that even now, even as evil continues to try to wrack and torment and torture, it flails about knowing it really, in the end, can't win.
We see evil and we wonder where is God?
The Bible makes it clear that God was not the hand tormenting that demon-possessed man in the Gospel of Mark. But He was the hand that set him free.
Unlike some people, I'm pretty content with the Mystery. And by mystery I mean the capital "M" sacred Mystery. I don't expect to know all the answers this side of Heaven. This doesn't mean that I don't struggle, don't wonder, don't doubt, don't question... But when I find myself wrestling with angels I try to go back to what I know for sure.
I know God is love.
I know we were created in love.
I know that we are called to love one another and that when we do, we participate in God's healing work in the world.
It's not often I read stories in the Bible and wish there were a different ending. Thank goodness because if I did I'm pretty sure I'd eventually hear God whisper,
Simmer down there, Child. I got this.
But when I see overwhelming goodness rising up to do battle with the dark forces of the world...
When I see entire communities pouring out love and compassion on the suffering...
When I sit in a sanctuary, or a classroom, or a gymnasium and hear both strangers and friends raise their hopeful, determined voices up together in prayer and song...
I always imagine Jesus staring that demon down, looking straight into the depths of that poor man's true soul and shaking his head when the demon declares,
I am Legion, for we are many.
And with a voice fierce with love, and truth, and light he would say...