Cleanliness is Next to Demon Possession

Monday, October 28, 2013 — Week of Proper 25, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Zechariah 1:7-17

Revelation 1:4-20

Matthew 12:43-50

Keeping up with housework is an area of my life that I struggle with a lot. At least today’s gospel has some good news for those of us with similar domestic skills: Our homes are very unlikely to be invaded by evil spirits! Apparently, these spirits like things neat and tidy.

Jesus says that when an unclean spirit leaves a person, it wanders around restlessly. Meanwhile, this person begins to clean themselves up and put themselves in order. But then, the unclean spirit decides to return to its first host, and it brings along seven of its even more evil friends. Finding the place freshly swept and organized, the whole crew moves in and takes over.

How true this description is of the Christian community. Christian preoccupations with some kinds of sin only make room for a host of other sins: The church may attempt to drive out some spirit or behavior that seems unclean, but then it finds itself invaded instead by the sins of hypocrisy, gossip, condemnation, and exclusion.

How can we prevent this re-infestation? First, we can recognize our drives for purity and order as compulsions and not sacred values. An obsession with sweeping things out and establishing order serves only to make more room for worse spirits.

Second, we can make sure that unclean spirits don’t find us empty in the first place. By filling ourselves with love and compassion, we can cultivate hearts that are much less accommodating to other spirits looking for a place to declare squatters’ rights.

In the household of our hearts and in the household of faith, we must be extremely cautious when we try to banish a seemingly unclean spirit. We may just be setting ourselves up for a spirit of judgment and its various minions to take over the place.

Let’s relax some of our need for cleanliness and order today, and instead fill ourselves with acceptance and encouragement. There’s so much more to the spiritual life than a clean house.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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