Cleaning our spiritual house

Homily for the III Sunday of Lent, according to the 1962 Missal

Today, the third Sunday of Lent, was originally known as “scrutiny Sunday”. In the early Church, it was the day when candidates for baptism were presented in the church so that the community could vouch for their worthiness for baptism. The readings reflect the theme of baptism and the battle we all face to maintain and cultivate God’s presence in our souls.

St Paul in the first reading reminds us that we were once in darkness, but now walk in the light of the Lord. This first happens in our lives through the sacrament of baptism, which frees us from the reign of the devil and makes us children of God. In the rite of baptism, we (often by proxy through our parents and godparents) explicitly renounce Satan and all his works, like those listed in this passage of the letter to the Ephesians. The priest also performs a simple exorcism over the person to be baptized. After baptism, a candle is lit to represent the light of God’s grace, and the parents and godparents are instructed to ensure that the light of faith and grace remains lit in the child’s soul. As we all know, that is a challenge as much today as ever, because there are many influences that try to separate us from God.

This dynamic is represented again in the Gospel. The Lord casts a mute devil out of a man, restoring him to freedom from the devil and also restoring his ability to speak. We could see a parallel to baptism; in both situations, the person is being freed from sin and the devil, and when we are baptized, we receive the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and love that allow us to pray in Spirit and in truth; we gain a new supernatural voice, like the man who was exorcised regained his speach.

But towards the end of the Gospel, Jesus completes the image. He describes how, once the demon is cast out, he will try to come back with more unclean spirits, and if he finds the house empty, the last situation is worse than the first. This parallels the struggle to maintain and grow in the sanctifying grace we receive at baptism. It’s not enough to throw the devil out and clean house; we need to fill the house with God. We alone are not “strong men” who can defend their own house from our attacker. We need God to be with us if we want to keep our house clean, or to cast out any influence of the devil that we have allowed to re-enter our souls through sin. If we do not resist and simply adapt to the ways of the world, we are worse off than someone who was never baptized. The unbaptized often do not truly know God; those who knowingly abandon the truth have known God and rejected Him. We all do that to some degree when we sin.

Fortunately, God is always ready to forgive us if we repent, and the Church wants to help us. This is part of what Lent is about.

On one hand, we “clean house”. We examine our spiritual lives to see if or where we have let evil into our lives. We practice forms of penance and sacrifice to detach ourselves more from our passions and to make reparation for our sins. We go to confession to cleanse ourselves of sin and the devil.

On the other hand, we spend time in prayer and in service of others in order to fill souls with God and His love. Every time we receive Christ in the Eucharist, we fill ourselves with His presence and fortify ourselves against sin. May God grant us to arrive at Easter with all our spiritual “spring cleaning” done, with clean, beautiful souls ready for the risen Lord to fill us with His loving presence.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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2 Responses to Cleaning our spiritual house

  1. Woody Jones says:

    Dear Fr. Matthew,

    I am very glad that I have found your blog, and also very, very glad that you are posting meditations on the readings from both the new and the old lectionaries for Sunday. They are very edifying and helpful, and I urge you to keep it up!

    I don’t know if you follow Fr. John Hunwicke, one of the Anglican priests now “in formation” to join the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK, but his “Liturgical Notes” blog does have quiet a following across a number of lines of “churchmanship”; his thoughts on the lectionary readings for the EF (which evidently are the same as those in the English (1662) Book of Common Prayer) can be found here:

    Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you find my homilies helpful. I only post one for the EF readings on the Sundays when I offer the EF Mass, which is currently once a month, but eventually I hope to do it more often.

      Thanks also for the link to Fr Hunwicke’s site; I was not familiar with it.

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