I am sure it doesn’t feel like it, but sheltering ourselves in place can really help us—not just physically, by avoiding or spreading the virus. Best of all, sheltering can help us spiritually, with our Lenten discipline. For, really, what is Lent about? It’s about cleaning our spiritual house by increasing our prayers, by working on self-control, and by living less inside ourselves and more outward toward others. When we are safe-at-home, we can do that: by spending less time on our self-serving passions, and by spending more time in prayer and in reaching out to others.
Cleaning our spiritual house: that’s what today’s Gospel describes. For Jesus doesn’t simply heal a man. He casts out a devil. And when the devil is cast out, the man is healed. Or, to say it another way, Our Lord re-calibrates the man and cleans out the spiritual clutter the devil brings, so that this man may now live more fully focused on and devoted to the Lord.
And if we use these weeks wisely, if we use them as a Lenten exercise, Our Blessed Lord can help us achieve the same: re-calibration with a more focused, more devoted life in Him.
do that, we need to see these days not as a nuisance but as a blessing; not as
something that keeps us away from our normal routine, but as hours and days and
weeks that allow us to pull closer to Christ. Not as minutes and hours and days
that need to be filled, but as more time for prayer, more time for spiritual
reading, more time for developing good habits, and more time to live outside
there are two dangers. The first is that we’ll agree with the sentiment but
fritter away the time. And that will happen if we see this as a vacation. Or if
we get wrapped up in our fears and anxieties. Or if we wonder why others aren’t
doing what they’re supposed to. When we do that, we’re wasting our time on
things that do not edify or strength us spiritually.
us, instead, spend our energy on reading the Scriptures, on praying with our family,
and on making ourselves available, as much as our situation allows.
second danger is that we’ll actually see these days as a great blessing, we’ll
actually immerse ourselves more and more in prayer for others, we’ll actually
grow closer in our relationship with the Lord—and then we’ll go back to
business-as-usual once the crisis passes.
the greater danger. And it’s the danger Our Lord warns us about in today’s
Gospel. For He tells us, in effect, that Lenten house cleaning should be done
not for its own sake, but to make more room in our daily routine for our Lord.
For when we do Lent just because it’s Lent, then we’ve actually made things
worse. For then it’s one step forward during Lent, and two steps back after
response to this danger is to say to ourselves, “So, why even bother beginning?
Why do Lent at all if there’s the possibility that we’ll backslide? And why
make meaningful, spiritual use of our sheltering time if I already know that I
won’t keep it up when life gets back to normal?”
better response, however, is to establish a new normal: where more prayer
becomes the new norm; where living for the end becomes our new way of living.
we do that—when Lent becomes our way of life—then Christ, the Stronger Man, not
only overthrows the strong devil; Christ Jesus also then moves in and makes His
home in us. Which is what we should want. And what we should aim for,
especially now as we have the time, the blessing of time not spent on the
freeways, the blessing of time to say more prayers and live more in love with
sheltering days—they really can be a blessing if we use them wisely, in prayer
and attentiveness to Our Lord, to those who suffer, for those who are
first-responders, and in supplication for our city, state, nation, and all
the prayers of the Holy Mother of God, and of all the saints, may our Father
have mercy on us and, by His grace, lead us in these days closer to Him; who
lives and reigns with His Son, our Hope and Salvation, together with His
all-Holy and Life-Giving Spirit; now and for ever, world without end.