At the Expense of Pigs
By ELMINA FABON FALLAR
African Swine Fever is a pandemic disease found in pigs and widely distributed. Thousands of swine unexpectedly died because of the disease. A missionary in Papua New Guinea described the important role of pigs among the people in that place. Pigs are not only raised for food, they also represent social values and even have a states symbol. The more pigs a person has, and the more pigs he can give away, the higher social status in the place he/she has. It is the same as the value of “lechon” during Filipino celebrations; it gives importance on the occasion and an image of wealth on the hosts. Pigs symbolize affluence and luck in many cultures.
Matthew 8: 28-34 states: When Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, he was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
Some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged him, “If you drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” Jesus ordered them, “Go! So the demons left the men and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and was drowned. The men in charge of the pigs ran off to town, where they told the whole story, and also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. The whole town went out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
The story tells of how Jesus healed two possessed men at the expense of some pigs. The exorcism is meant to emphasize the power of Jesus in his ministry – that he has the authority over the Evil One. This power continues to stay in His Church even today and will remain in her until the end of time. It surely is comforting to know that inspite of the abundant evidence of the destructive forces of evil in our world we are not to give in to fear because the power of God is far greater than the power of evil.
It’s a surprise that the demonstration of power in exorcising the demons that possessed the two men did not elicit faith among the people. They were scared of Jesus and saw him as a threat to their local economy. They wanted him to leave their place because they are angry at the loss of their pigs. Obviously they preferred the demons and swine to the presence of Jesus. They did not recognize what a big mistake in failing to recognize that for Jesus the lives and well-being of two people are more important than a thousand pigs.
When Jesus drove out the demons and sent them to the pigs, the people from Gadara perceived it as bad luck and were so afraid of losing more property, so that they asked Jesus to leave their town. The people were more concerned of saving the pigs than helping the possessed men. Valued possessions, investments and even animals seemed more important to them than human lives.
Even today, there are many people, whose sole focus in life is only acquiring possessions, attaining status and achieving success. When they say “I am blessed,’ they only think of material endowments. They have no idea what a blessing really is. Dieter Bonhoeffer, a German theologian wrote, “The heart clings to collected treasure. Stored up possessions get between me and God. Where my treasure is, there is my trust, my security, my comfort, my God. Treasure means idolatry” Material things bring only worry and concern; the true owner of everything is our Creator. God does not look at appearance and possessions, He looks into the heart and deeds of man.