Posted by: geolocke | 2014/10/26

Swept Clean and Put In Order.

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable about an “unclean spirit” that leaves a person and goes wandering, and upon returning to its ‘home’ the unclean spirit  finds that all has been swept clean and put in order. So the unclean spirit then goes out and finds seven more “wicked” spirits to move in with it and the person is worse off than before.

I’ve always had a difficult time trying to understand the meaning behind this particular Parable.  I can be especially dense at times and it takes quite a few hearings and readings before I can catch a glimmer of the truth that lies hidden within the words of Holy Scripture. I heard this parable once more not too long ago and I think that I have finally begun to grasp some of its deeper meaning.

I have been frustrated in the past, as well as the present, when I find myself repeating the same mistakes I have made before and then going to reconciliation and re-presenting the same sins as I have previously presented. Going to reconciliation is difficult enough to begin with, but to sit across from the Priest and confess the same repeated failures of charity, for me that borders on being miserable.  Telling myself “I’m only human” and “I can’t help it” doesn’t ease the mental anguish I put myself through while waiting to enter the confessional. True, I could always confess my sins directly to God, and I do because God knows everything I do, even if I don’t recognize it myself. But the majority of my sins are committed directly against other humans, my neighbors.

Christ understands that the human creature needs to physically say “I’m sorry” as well as to physically hear the words “You are forgiven” in order for the human psyche to properly heal. Therefore Christ assigns priests to represent Him on behalf of the Church and all humanity, to hear our confessions when we ask for forgiveness, and to present His Pardon when the priest says: On behalf of the Church I absolve you from all your sins. Go in peace.” Thus I leave the Reconciliation room in peace with my soul “swept clean and put in order” just as told in the parable. So why then is it so easy for those wicked spirits to return and start wreaking havoc upon my soul once more?

As I said above, I recently heard this Gospel passage and the thought occurred to me that maybe the reason those wicked spirits find it so easy to move back in is because even though I’ve taken the effort to have my soul swept clean and put in order, I’ve not taking the time afterwards to fill it up with God’s Charity and Holy Spirit. It’s like I’m evicting unwanted guests and cleaning my room, but I’m not inviting welcomed guests to fill my room afterward. I’m not taking the next logical step, thus leaving myself open for a repeat visit from the unwelcome spirits.

So how can I fill my empty room and not leave the door wide open for those unwanted guests? Ideally I think a good start would be by attending Mass on a daily basis. J. R. R. Tolkien once wrote: “Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, The Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.“¹ I relish the idea of some day being able to attend daily Mass. However, my current situation makes it near impossible to attend more than one Mass on the weekend.

So until such time as I am able to attend daily Mass, I fill my mornings and evenings with the daily Mass readings and the prayers of the Church, and I look for opportunities to practice and grow my faith.  I know I will fall again and again. I am after all, only human, but I will pray that my ‘inner room’ might seem a little less inviting to those wandering troublemaking spirits. I also pray that I will avail myself more often to the healing sacrament of reconciliation in order to keep my room well swept and put in order. In short, I will make do with the tools and time available to me at this moment, while keeping my spirit open for opportunities to improve my faith.  Anything less than that is simply inviting trouble to return.

Peace, Good Will, and Blessings to you all.

Footnote 1: From “The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien” by Humphrey Carpenter published by the Houghton Mifflin Co. 1981, Letter #250: To Michael Tolkien, Paragraph 8.

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