Isaiah 58 & Return of the Unclean Spirit 

1Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; proclaim to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the judgment of their God; they ask of me just judgments, they desire to draw near to God. 3"Why do we fast, but you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, but you take no note?"

See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. 4See, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist! Do not fast as you do today to make your voice heard on high! 5Is this the manner of fasting I would choose, a day to afflict oneself? To bow one's head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

6Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? 7Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh? 8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: "Here I am!" If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech; 10 if you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday; 11 then the LORD will guide you always and satisfy your thirst in parched places, will give strength to your bones and you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail. 12Your people shall rebuild the ancient ruins; the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; "repairer of the breach", they shall call you, "restorer of ruined dwellings."

Lent is the favorable time for good deeds. The good deed is perhaps the most powerful sword of the Spirit in our recovering hands of them all. Good and evil cannot mix. Do good works, and watch demons flee! Love others and watch how our addiction struggle recedes. It's all true!

The good deed is especially meritorious at Lent, because Satan knows what is coming and will try to "ruin" Easter and our freedom hopes by trying to stomp on us with his torments, precisely when we are feeling pain in the desert.

We see in the Twenty Ways the many helps to live purity and chastity. Christian charity in corporal works of mercy and volunteering (No. 14) is perhaps among the most challenging for an addict. Addiction causes self-fixation, being absorbed in self. It is hard for the chronically preoccupied person to be selfless. How we need Christ.

It is said: "One cannot give away what is not yet possessed". An unrecovered addict suffers this painful poverty.

We seek God, cling to Him, and beg Him for humility and charity. By His healing and grace we can become healthy and capable of good deeds. But without Him, we can do nothing.

In Isaiah's ordering, setting free the oppressed, heads the litany of righteous acts. Anyone in a support group, who can make a sacrifice of prayer for a brother in need, fasts well in the sight of God. This is a beginning. The life of works can grow from here to help anyone, inside and outside of Lent, wherever we are. Prayer is always a great start and has been called the greatest charity. Our group is about prayer and letting the Spirit teach us how to pray.

Matthew 12:43 "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 "Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 "Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation."

In the story of the return of the unclean spirit, Jesus is responding with severity to the Pharisees, who with grave stupidity are committing unforgiveable sins against the Holy Spirit. The core of the passage has to do with Israel's lack of desire for salvation, holiness and purity.

For those who do not take with sufficient seriousness the spiritual disease of addiction, the 12-step fellowships repeat the phrase "half-measures availed us nothing". Hopefully, the afflicted come to God with hearts and minds burdened and ashamed by undeniable and lamentable powerlessness and unfreedom: with the sacrifice of a broken spirit.

We know that the only way a demon goes out of a person is through the finger of God, by prayer and fasting: deliverance or exorcism, in the name and by the power of Jesus Christ. Once a demon is exiled, Jesus reveals that its thirst remains while in waterless realms, and will return again to where it knows the water was so easily had before. The demon always needs the complicity of a host in sin.

Today, the word nostalgia is regarded as a weak affection for the past bordering on mild obsession. But the original meaning of nostalgia, rooted in the words nostos, return and -algia, pain, is closer to an unfree longing for a useless yesterday, a vexing ache in which the returning is the pain. What addict can fail to relate to this pining for the old and familiar, the ritual 'highs' of the past, despite all their deadness?

A demon will return, but his return is already foretold if the soul's love of intoxication and the memory of intoxication, which it loves more than God, remains unrenounced, unreplaced. The demon thus finds the house awaiting its return, empty. The soul does something even more damaging by making the house welcoming, "smelling of purity". The latter attracts a higher dose of Satan's drug - the "reward" of seven more demons to bind it. An unprotected, unchanged "house" (a soul), still poor of resistance to evil, neglectful of the continued harm of demonic entanglement, especially because there is no pain in Satan's oppressions but only warm nauseous delirium, and ambivalent about growing, receives then what it mutely "asks for".

Our Lord is describing afflicted ones who haplessly court their old lover Satan. Can we confess to the Lord the fact of our inferior love of Him, our favoring instead, of all things, self-saturated drunken flesh! Can we confess the love of our sin? Yes, here is something for a Lenten confession!

A secure house is instead occupied with God, filled with Christ, brimming with good works, with constant desire for freedom and life, with a vision of a future of fruitfulness, and an acceptance of strength and grace to become what the Lord wills. Let us always place God at the center of our lives and beg of Him the grace to ardently desire healing and liberation, beg of Him the gift of willingness and strength to fulfill His divine plan, beg of Him to let us do good works, beg of Him to be pleasing servants in His vineyard, beg of Him a spirit of constant humility, gratitude and charity. This is a house "conscious", whence the old demon may peer in again but must wander on, because it cannot cohabitate where God, charity and humility preempt it.

Occupy the house! Give work and leisure time meaningful and purposeful shape! Do not shun opportunity for obedience! Do not be afraid of more life! Maintain a sense of daily duty! This is consciousness, of being present in the Body of Christ. Jesus is the strong man that prevents the evicted demon from re-roosting, if we rely on Him in all things, especially in our incapability! Living in Christ, following Him, letting Him work through us, we prove that our love of virtue, righteousness and God exceed the forlorn weakness of flesh, intoxication and addiction. If we truly do not want the evil, we will not be given it. As for freedom in Christ, "we have to desire it."

We thus come truly home, children with a name "dearly loved of God", who do His will, who give and love, who thereby work out our salvation and save our souls. Whatever is asked for will be given, therefore do not make the stagnant, silent, unconscious prayer of death. Make the growing, confident, clearly spoken prayer of life.

Thank you Father for all that Jesus has done for us, all that he is doing and all that he shall do. God of all, physician of souls, heal our spirit of disease, heal the wound of addiction, fill us with persisting desire for freedom and the strength to cooperate with the good works you would have us do, because you have made us to do them. In Jesus name we beg Amen.