Friday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time               

            At the end of today’s gospel reading, there is a warning from Jesus about what one writer has called “the peril of the empty soul.” The Lord draws a picture of an individual from whom an evil spirit was expelled. The spirit wandered the earth seeking another victim and then returns to that person to find the soul swept clean and defenseless. It reenters with other evil spirits.

            The message of this teaching is that we cannot leave a soul or a life empty. It is not enough to banish evil and get rid of sin. It must be replaced by something positive. Our religion cannot focus only on a series of prohibitions and the avoidance of sin. The most powerful antidote to sin is the good we begin to do.

            The best way to avoid evil is to do good. As the great spiritual directors have taught, we overcome vice by practicing the opposing virtue. If we are prone to selfishness and greed, we should start to be exceptionally generous. If we are tempted by pride and arrogance, we should give our life to quiet service. If we are captured by gossips and fake news, we should read more the Good News of the Lord. If we are influenced in a bad way by our friends, we should surround ourselves with good people. If we are attacked by lust, according to Joseph Krempa, we should struggle to appreciate the inner dignity and vocation of people around us that resides in the beauty of their soul rather than in their body.

            We all should beware of the “peril of an empty soul.” The best defense against evil is the good we are doing,  the virtues we are trying to embrace and develop, our life of prayer, service and ministry to others, our stewardship of and mission in our parish community. When we stand before the Lord, our life will be judged not by the sins we avoided but by the good we have done.

            I encountered this simple prayer that articulates the point I am trying to make: Lord, help to us realize that the best way to keep weeds out of the garden of the mind is to plant it so full of flowers that weeds have no place to grow.

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