It’s unlikely that any of us will have to deal with demonic possession, but we do have to deal with repeated sin in our lives. So often, we confess the same sins time and time again. We know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation gives us the grace to be set free. But once we’re cleansed, we need to be filled with something. We can’t go around vacant.
So what can we do to fortify our “house” against repeat occupation? How do we go beyond cleansing our souls and actually refurnish them?
From the earliest times, the Church has understood that sin, or vice, has what are called opposing virtues: virtues that by their very nature counteract and weaken the influence of the sin in our lives. Following this tradition, St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended developing virtues that strike to the heart of our most troublesome sins.
It works something like this: we examine our conscience carefully. We go to Confession and get “swept clean and put in order.” Then we get to work refurnishing the house of our soul. We identify the virtue that will help us displace the sin. Chastity counteracts lust. Temperance uproots gluttony. Generosity counterbalances greed. Diligence displaces sloth. Forgiveness and meekness offset wrath or anger. Kindness replaces envy. And humility supplants pride. With each subsequent confession, the process continues on a deeper and deeper level until we find ourselves set free.
Now, it’s true that only God’s grace can help us progress in holiness, but we still have to decide to take those small steps each day to fill the gap left by the uprooted sin. So we must refurnish our house in order to enable the Holy Spirit to live there comfortably and more powerfully.