Lenten Devotional: March 19
“My name is Legion; for we are many.”
It’s interesting how sometimes a particular word stands out in a phrase or passage, and for me the word “Legion” does so in this familiar story of the Gerasene man who is so terribly afflicted with demons. “Legion” is derived from the Latin word “legere” meaning to choose, or, select, as in to levy an army. By the time of Caesar Augustus a legion numbered about 6000 men, so it’s easy to understand why the word has been a metaphor for “multitude” since Antiquity. Jesus himself uses it in Matthew 26:53 when, at His betrayal, He says that if He so desired He could summon “…more than twelve legions of angels.”
In the context of Lent (itself an interesting word derived from an Old English term for “lengthen”, as in the time of year when days become longer), the idea of legion as multitude can certainly be relevant. After all, one of the benefits of observing this season is that it allows us to pause our busy lives to intentionally examine distractions that accumulate. Although they indeed are legion, thoughtful reflection just might lead to reducing their number.
On the other hand, Lent can also be a chance to look for ways to add practices and activities to our lives that bring us closer to God. A glance at the list of ministries engaged in by our parish shows that these possibilities, too, are legion. And in thinking about how we might go about doing this, perhaps we’ll want to keep in mind these other words spoken by the Gerasene to our Lord in verse seven, “What have you to do with me, Jesus…?”