Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday of Lent—15 March A.D. 2010


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[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Mass Text]
[Latin Mass Text]
[Lenten Observance]


“He who is not with Me is against Me;
and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.”


    The two readings today go right to the heart of the struggle between good and evil.  The epistle suggests that we are capable of pleasing God, and gives a general list of things we must avoid.[2]  The Gospel, however, indicates that there is another dimension.  It tells us that the Devil is real.

    For the most part possession by the Devil is a punishment for sin.  It stands to reason that those who glory in the bad behaviors listed by Saint Paul— “fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness ... obscenity ... foolish talking ... scurrility ....”—and all the related evils that “should not even be named among you” will live in the state of serious sin.  In some way, they can be said to welcome the devil into their lives.  They may not realize what they are doing, but they are offering themselves for possession by the Devil.  The Devil, in turn, thinks of the cooperative sinner as his own property.  He may even attach himself to other sinners who share the same vice.  Just as we say that he is “the father of lies,”  we might say that he is the “father of adulterers,” or “the father of thieves.”  And the Devil may feel that he has a right to the souls of his sinful “sons.”

    While debauchery may appeal to degenerate persons, it should be understood that possession by the Devil is not some sort of self-indulgent party—it is not the happy life—it is closer to madness or serious illness. Today's Gospel says that the possessed man was afflicted by “a dumb spirit.”  He was unable to speak—similarly he could have been made dead or blind or paralyzed—which we read about in other Gospel passages. 

    This same Gospel, in Saint Matthews version, says that the possessed man was both blind and dumb.[3].  The same chapter, just a few verses later, tells us that attributing the works of Christ to the Devil as did some of the crowd in today's Gospel, is the only “unforgivable sin,” and it records the possibility of forgiveness of sin “in the world to come,” suggesting the existence of Purgatory. [4]  (But those are subjects for a later sermon.)

    Possession may appear to be a severe mental illness.  Indeed, before attempting to cast out a devil through exorcism, the Church insists on having the testimony of physicians and psychiatrists that the possessed person is not suffering from natural illnesses.

    Confronting the Devil can be dangerous business, but under carefully controlled conditions, the Church may have Her priests offer prayers of exorcism to warn the Devil that the persons or places he has occupied don't belong to him, but to God alone.  Human beings are rightly temples of the Holy Ghost, and not of the evil one.

    But, even with the powerful prayers of the Church, there is the danger of recidivism—of backsliding into the same old sinful state.  The Devil views the sinful soul as his own property.  Even if he is commanded to leave that soul by the Church, he may always look back and consider him a desirable possession, worth trying to possess him again.  Our Lord told us:

    When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walks through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding it, he says: ‘I will return into my house whence I came out.’  And when he is come, he finds it swept and garnished.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there.

    What we learn from today’s readings can be summarized as saying that we must resist all forms of impurity—physical, vocal, and spiritual—not even talking about them as possibilities for the Christian soul.  We must avoid all contact with the Devil, including occult contacts like consulting “mediums” or playing with an “Ouija board”—but also the familiarity with the Devil that comes from engaging in habitual sin.  Hopefully, none of us will ever require exorcism, but we should regularly welcome the opportunity to distance ourselves from the Devil through prayer, fasting, and the Sacraments of Confession and Communion.


    Our Lord’s words in this Gospel are very powerful and very memorable.  Let us never forget them:


“He who is not with Me is against Me;
and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.”



Dei via est íntegra


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