There is a list of seven deadly or capital sins. They are called pride, lust, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony and sloth or acedia. Acedia may be the least recognized on the list but it is the most dangerous, because it is the most subtle. If it is recognized at all, it is often compared to laziness, but that does not quite grasp the depth of it. The word, from its literal meaning, means a lack of care. This can manifest in our life as cynicism, finding no meaning, a minimalist approach, a resistance to discipline, a disengagement with the world around us, and ultimately a “lack of care given to one’s own spiritual life, a lack of concern for one’s own salvation” (Nault 2015, 28).
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, in his foreword to Jean-Charles Nault’s, The Noonday Devil, describes the affects of acedia on us today this way: “Left to his own devices, man ultimately despairs of ever being able to find a meaning for his existence and runs the risk of sinking into mediocrity that is just the symptom of his rejection of his own greatness as an adopted son [and daughter] of God” (Nault, 2015, 11).
Many of us struggle with just getting by, feeling tired, worn down and worn out, seeing on some far horizon the possibility for our potential but wondering if we can ever fully achieve it. We deny the very gift of our humanity, we retreat into a stance that accepts the unthinkable, as long as it does not directly affect us. We grow in our indifference toward the needs of others we consider not like us. This happens when we listen to the father of lies instead of our Father in heaven.
Today we celebrate the antidote to acedia as well as all those temptations that grasp at our throat to choke out the divine life from growing within us. Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the Apostles to empower them with the divine Love between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). Jesus, who embraced our humanity, and took upon himself our sin on the Cross and so conquered death, rose again, and freed us from our slavery to sin. The Risen One comes to us as he came to his disciples in the locked room and invites us to participate in his divine life. So when the temptations of sin arise in our mind and heart, we are to, in the words of St Benedict of Nursia, “dash them against Christ immediately” (Nault, 2015, 41).
We are able to do this by developing prayers, songs, and memorizing words of Scripture to counteract the lies and temptations that attempt to allure us away from the truth of our relationship with Jesus, ourselves, and each other. One simple but powerful prayer to use is reciting the words from Psalm 70:2 “God, come to my assistance. Lord make haste to help me.” Another is “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Just saying, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Latin for Come, Holy Spirit, reciting the Jesus Prayer or Come, Lord Jesus, followed by your own words are all ways to immediately turn away from the temptation that arises and draw on the infinite power and love of God.
May we recognize our need today for Jesus in our life. May we recognize that we are like diamonds in the ruff, we are unique and special gifts to this world, though wounded by our sin. We may feel adrift, without direction; we may feel cynical and without hope; we may feel beaten, worn out and worn down; but let us not despair, let us realize that we are not overcome or outdone. We may be wounded, but we are not destroyed. Let us call on the same Holy Spirit that empowered Mary and the Apostles so to draw guidance and strength from our God who loves us and desires for us the full actualization of who we are and who he calls us to be.
Let us not settle for a minimalist approach or living a life of mediocrity, but instead call on the name of Jesus to break the bonds of our enslavement to sin, so to be free to live our life in participation with him. We have been created for nothing less than a life of meaning, fulfillment, joy, love and unity with God and one another. Through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, may we keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit. May we turn aside from evil and do good.
May we seek and strive after the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding. Thus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we too are sent by Jesus. May we have the courage to be present, to accompany, guide and support others. We are to share the peace and love we have received.
Veni Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit!
Photo: Our daughter Christy, expressing her joy on the first day of her move to CA.
Nault, O.S.B., Jean-Charles. The Noonday Devil: Acedia Unnamed Evil of Our Times. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015. If you are looking for a transformative book for summer reading, I highly recommend it!
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, May 20, 2018: