You’re It

Mark 5:1-20

In the summer of l959, I worked in the psychiatric ward of a large metropolitan hospital. The following story was told me by a young psychiatric nurse. One hot August night she was working the graveyard shift. Because of a mix-up in schedules, she was the only one on the third floor, which housed men who were sometimes “overly assertive.” About two in the morning she looked up and saw “Bob” leering at her from his door way at the end of the hall. She told him to go back to bed, but “Bob” continued to smirk and leer. She led him back to his room, but “Bob” kept on leering.

Finally he came down the hall toward her. She panicked and retreated down the stairs to the second floor. He pursued her down the hall to the locked French doors. “Bob,” “Don’t, go back.” “Bob” reached out, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Now you’re it.” He turned around, walked upstairs, and went to bed. “What did you do?” I asked. “I went back to my desk and collapsed,” she said.

Some may consider the story apocryphal or offensive. But my friend told it as a joke on herself and as truthful, so I took it in that manner. I remember the story because she had to stand firm in the face of chaos, of a deranged individual possessed by his private demons. There are times when we are forced to stand firm, to be steadfast. Or to paraphrase “Bob,” “Now we are it.”

St. Mark tells a similar story of Jesus’ encounter with the Gerasene Demoniac, a deranged man, who lived among the tombs. Now Jesus was “it.” He rebuked and calmed the man, whose unclean spirits and demons were driven away.

Jesus stood firm over against the chaos and destructiveness of nature and of the inner mind. A miracle story such as this is a confessional statement. One of the things which the early Church is saying is that the Christians experienced in the person of Jesus the power and presence of God. Just as God through the prophets rebuked the evil spirits and demons, so too Jesus sided with that which is creative and redemptive and opposed the demons and evil spirits.

Each of us in our own way has the ability to stand firm against chaos in the world and in our lives. When we do so we are reflecting the image of God which is in each of us, whether nurse, doctor, or patient. The Church knew that there were times when one or more of us are, to use Bob’s word, “it.” We have to stand firm. In so doing we do not repudiate science or medicine. Rather, like Jesus, and with His power, we reflect the healing steadfastness of God. Amen.