There is a list of seven deadly or capital sins. They are 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, 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 effects 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).
So many of us, especially over the past year of this pandemic, 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 can come to 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 divine Love.
From our Gospel reading today we read how: 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, took upon himself our sin on the Cross, then 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, to share in the love he shares with the Father, who is the Holy Spirit. So when temptations arise in our minds and hearts, we are to, in the words of St Benedict of Nursia, “dash them against Christ immediately” (Nault, 2015, 41).
We are able through the prompting of the Holy Spirit through prayers, songs, and words of Scripture to counteract the lies and temptations that seek to lure 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, or the English equivalent, Come, Holy Spirit, reciting the Jesus Prayer or simply the words, Come, Lord Jesus, and/or our own spontaneous words of prayer are all ways to immediately turn away from the temptations that arise and draw on the infinite power and love of God.
We are like diamonds in the ruff. We are unique and special gifts to this world, though wounded and marred by our own sin. We may feel adrift, without direction; we may feel cynical and without hope; we may feel beaten, worn out, and worn down; we may feel anxious and afraid, but let us not despair or lose our ability to care, especially for each other. We need to realize that we are not overcome or outdone. We may be wounded by indifference and complacency, but we are not defined or set in stone. We can change. We can learn to love, to will the good of each other, even those that are different than ourselves.
Today, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, let us call on the same Holy Spirit that empowered Mary and the Apostles to give us the guidance and strength from our God and Father who loves us and desires for all of us to fully actualize who we are and who he calls us to be: People of love. Love is the antidote to the sickness of fear and hate. Love helps us to resist the defensive posture of turning in upon ourselves and instead moves us out beyond ourselves to will the good of each other.
God does not want us to settle for a minimalist approach or to live a life of mediocrity that is bogged down by apathy, but instead, he urges us to call on the name of his Son, Jesus, who will break the bonds of our enslavement to sin, and through our participation in his life become empowered by the Holy Spirit so to be free to live the life we have been created for; a life of meaning, fulfillment, joy, love, and unity with God and one another. This is a promise made, not just for a select few, but for all people, no matter their ethnicity, race, or creed.
Holy Spirit set us aflame with the fire of your love and burn off the dross of our covert or overt biases, prejudices and racism so that we may be like precious stones radiating your light and love in such a way that we keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit, that we turn aside from evil and do good, that we seek and strive after the peace of God, that peace that surpasses all understanding and that we become more present, more understanding, and more loving, so to see each other as you see us, as precious children in your sight. Help us to respect the gifts of our diversity and differences while at the same time embrace the dignity of each human person.
The gift of Pentecost is the universal invitation to enter into relationships with those that are different than us so to come close and embrace our common humanity. Help us to see each other as brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings, as people with dignity. Help us to love one another as you love us.