So, the gospel reading for Ordinary 12 was Luke 8:26-39, The Deliverance of Legion.
A familiar story, notable in our memories for the man living in a local cemetery, the legion of demons, the swineherd, and the destruction of the pigs (2000 according to Mark 5:13), neverthless raises some questions, one of which for me I do not recall previously seeing!
That question (before the other ones) is,
Why does Luke describe the man as being possessed both by a singular demon and by plural demons?
He introduces the man as having "demons" (27) but then reports that Jesus had "commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man" (29) and talks about the man being "driven by the demon into the desert" (29) before the remainder of the story focusing on the man (or the demon(s) within him) as being named "Legion" and described in plurality (30, 31, 32, 33).
A possible answer is that Luke is wrestling with Mark's version of this incident. Mark 5:2 introduces the man as "a man with an unclean spirit" and describes Jesus as commanding "you unclean spirit" to come out of him (8) before the dialogue in which Jesus asks the man his name, with the reply "My name is Legion: for we are many" (9) and the remainder of demonic references being about plural demons.
Luke (on this hypothesis) both wishes to correct Mark a little (so his verse 27 describes the man as having demons plural, rather than having an unclean spirit, in keeping with how the story unfolds later on), yet also be faithful to Mark, and especially to Mark's report of what Jesus says and does (Luke 8:29 becomes a report on Mark 5:7, referencing "unclean spirit" as Mark does.
A further correction, or, at least, restraint on repeating a detail of Mark, is that when Mark says the man (or his demon(s)) is called "Legion" which could imply as many demons as there were soldiers in a Roman legion, about 5000) but describes the number of pigs killed as "2000" (which, if there was one demon per pig, is well short of 5000), Luke adroitly repeats that the man is called "Legion" but omits the number of pigs that are killed.
In a Western world somewhat wary of talk of demons/unclean spirits (unless they appear in a horror movie), how do we understand this story today? Is it, for instance, speaking to a phenomenon in our world that we are not willing to engage with? Or, (somewhat comfortingly for 21st century people more used to talking about psychiatry and mental health), was Jesus - unique Son of God - especially provocative of the demonic world, so that they (the demons) showed their faces (so to speak) when Jesus came along, but now that he is ascended, they work in a more hidden way, ergo we don't need to worry about them or talk about them?
Acknowledging that the questions in the paragraph above deserve a very long discussion, and that there are other questions related to these ones, neverthless I want to observe that, whatever else this story might mean, it is part of Luke setting out the case that no power was able to defeat Jesus: not illness, not death, not shortage of food, not storms and, here, not demonic "anti-God" spiritual forces.
Yet, in our world today, we see forces at work against God, the church and, more generally, the flourishing of humanity (e.g. Russian aggression in Ukraine), which Jesus does not seem to be defeating?
What might we say about the seeming victory of evil in our world today?
One thought I had is that we should read about our world (and the presence of the ascended Jesus within it) with the whole of Luke-Acts in mind.
Acts, after all, tells us much about what the mission of Jesus looks like when he is no longer on earth as a flesh-and-blood human being. What do we find there? Certainly, demons are delivered (e.g. Acts 16:16-18). But the world is a brutal world. In that particular deliverance story, the apostles concerned are hounded into jail as a consequence (though later rescued). Some key figures in the mission are executed (Stephen, James). Paul ends the story in a sanguine position, as a well-treated prisoner in Rome, but we know from later histories that he will die as a martyr.
To a degree, evil wins, at least in a limited way, in the history of Christianity in our world.
But, Acts might steer us in another direction, re evil in our world. Acts is also the story of the followers of Jesus doing something rather than nothing about the state of the world. There is a better news story to share with the world, in word and in deed, than the current news story of the Roman Empire. The apostles and other disciples get out and about telling the gospel and doing the gospel through healings and deliverances.
In our world today, we may feel powerless, but there is always something gospelling we can do and say.
Luke's narrative has a very, very neat ending (which, again, I do not recall previously noting, but some commentaries have helped me out).
In Luke 8:39, Jesus commands the man to return to his home and "declare how much God has done for you."
But what he actually does is to proclaim "throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him."
A lovely identification between God and Jesus. Cracking Lukan theology!