B11 LENT - Exorcism

St. Matthew 12.vv.43-50

~ Jesus said, "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation". While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you". But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?". And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother". ~

Nature abhors a vacuum, they say, and so does the life of the spirit. Whether we call this little parable a similitude, a likeness or an allegory, what we are considering is really a parable of "spring cleaning", a splendid parable for the season of Lent. It speaks of an evil spirit being cast out of a man, and later finding his erstwhile home swept and put in order, whereupon he gathers to himself seven spirits more evil than himself and entering again into the man renders his last state worse than the first.

Lent always falls into the season for spring cleaning, for turning things out, for cleaning up. Now Jesus warns that there is a danger here - not of falling off the steps in taking the curtains down or getting the wallpaper wrapped round the head in papering the ceiling, no, something far more subtle! In the seventeenth century Spinoza said that "nature abhors a vacuum". Christians need to be filled with the right kind of spirit. St. Paul said, "Be not drunken with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit". A garden cleared of crops in the autumn may be full of weeds in the spring.

The whole point of the parable is that we should not simply get rid of evil thoughts, acts, desires and habits, but replace them with what is good and acceptable in the sight of God. We need to drive out the demon's lust, greed, envy, hatred and slander, replacing them with what is good.

In our Lenten discipline we should be POSITIVE. It is all too easy in Lent to emphasise the negative aspects of giving up and of self denial; of course there is great merit in this, but we should also be positive, by cultivating good habits, pure and wholesome thoughts, desires and deeds. Those who wish to prepare through Lent for a happy Easter should be positive. Having cast out evil, we must foster and nurture that which is good.

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