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Part 4: Sloth
Let's talk about sin, shall we? The following is part four of our weekly Lenten series on the Seven Deadly Sins.
What is sloth, anyway? Maybe you think of that slow-moving mammal itself, the sloth? Heavy-browed, with zero oomph, the sloth is practically imperceptible within its own self-constricted surroundings, practically impenetrable when it tucks into its cautious curl.
Maybe you picture the sloth's human counterpart, the couch potato? Sprawled out, one hand shoving pizza into his mouth, the other clicking the remote, the couch potato remains mentally and physically adrift in the tidal sways of the television's blue glow while the world outside labors on.
Here's another image you may not have thought of: Picture the iconic, multitasking men and women of the modern day — swift-footed wage slaves, out in the world, catching flights, arranging schedules, paying bills, helping with homework, grocery shopping, taking business phone calls while typing emails, writing proposals, attending meetings, and in need of 35-hour days just to get everything done.
In spiritual terms, whether it's excelling in idle diversions or vanishing within the whirlwind of worldly obligations, the result is the same: Those who have succumbed to spiritual sloth have either willfully or unwittingly abandoned their responsibilities as children of God. This does not in any way make them awful people. Still, they have weakened themselves and weakened the world.
What are our responsibilities as Catholic Christians? The first is to lead a sacramental life. The second is to present Christ to the world through our actions, whether they be simple, grand, or both.
Without the sacramental life, we reject the graces the Lord seeks to bestow upon us. We reject the Lord Himself and thereby become prone to despair, hopelessness, and sin. Then what happens is that the devil takes the wheel. With us belted in on the passenger seat, the devil drives the getaway car and seeks to rearrange the roads left in the wake. And where does the devil leave us off? Adrift, far afield, abandoned from our better selves, unavailable to present Christ to the world — the Christ who lends a helping hand, the Christ who shuns credit, the Christ who doesn't grumble or gossip, the Christ who smiles, who suffers alongside the suffering, who overlooks no one, who loves no matter what.
So what in the world is at the heart of the sin of sloth? Is it as simple as willful laziness? Is it as simple as "being too busy"? How is it that one can show so little diligence toward something so good?
Here's a thought: What if the underlying origin of sloth is simply a lack of faith, simply a lack of conviction that there really is a God; that there's a God who knows each of us; that there's a God with limitless love for us; that there's a heaven, a Communion of Saints; and that hell is real, and that sin will destroy us?
What if the faith seems too far-fetched, even for self-described Catholics? What if slothfulness is really the result of not wanting to be played for a sucker? What else could it be? If not that, to believe in the Gospel message while looking languidly upon it would be sheer madness. It would be like winning the lottery and not bothering to get into the car to collect.
So the following message goes out to all who doubt:
Pray. Pray, even if you think prayer is a waste of time. Tell God you don't believe He's really there. You have nothing to lose by praying. We all have time to pray. Pray while you drive, while you shower, while you chew your food. No one even has to know. Pray for Christ to reveal Himself in your life. Pray, even when you fret what faith may entail. Pray, even when you're burnt out at the end of the day and simply need to vegetate in front the television. Pray during the commercials. Pray for faith and for the courage and will to carry out whatever faith may entail. Pray for strength.
Here's what else you should do: Vow to turn from sin. Pray for the grace to turn from sin. If your spiritual slothfulness can be tied to doubts about the Church's teachings regarding particular sins, take a few moments to read what the Church actually has to say. Click here. It's the link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There's a search field. Type in a struggle you're having. Chastity? Type "chastity." Pornography? Type in "pornography." Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? Type in "drugs," type in "alcohol," type in "gambling." Do you disagree with the Church's stance on contraception and abortion? Type in "contraception," type in "abortion." You won't encounter dense prose, I assure you. The Catechism is clearly written. No theological degrees necessary. You could reassemble your soul by it.
Pray some more. Pray for the grace to adhere to the First Commandment — to love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Even if you're not sure that's what you really want, pray for it anyway. Pray for that everyday for a month and see what happens.
Pray, as St. Faustina did, for the "gift of holy love" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1229).
Here's what else: Commit to attending Mass at least weekly, if you don't already. Commit to going to confession at least monthly. And read Scripture daily. Click here to sign up to have the daily readings emailed to you each morning. It's free. Read the daily readings while you drink your tea or coffee in the morning. It won't take you more than 60 seconds.
Do you want to rid yourself of sloth? You do. Trust me, you do. And you can. You really can. The world needs you to. But you can't rid yourself of sloth by sitting down, just as you cannot rid yourself of sloth if you cannot stand still.
The Seven Deadly Sins