Pity the poor sloth. Recently I watched a pet sloth on live TV. It moved very, very slowly and deliberately. It almost looked like slow motion! I am not sure if the English word “slothful,” which means lazy, was named after the animal or the other way around.
The vice “sloth” is listed among the seven deadly vices. Of course, it was unfair to connect this vice with this animal. Just because the animal moves slowly does not mean that it is not taking initiative in its own way.
I have been reflecting about the relationship between slowing down and being lazy. They are not the same thing. Since my treatment for cancer and my surgery, I have felt a bit of fatigue and need to rest periodically. This however has been a blessing for me — to slow down and recognize what is truly important in life.
In his Lenten message this year, Pope Francis chooses a verse from Saint Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 20: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Reconciliation is a process of mending wounds and healing hurts in order to achieve unity. It does not need to proceed at high speed (and in fact the more deliberate, the better), but it does need to include taking the initiative. Classical theology speaks of actual grace as the movement of the soul — itself a gift from God — leading us to take a positive spiritual step.
One of the seven deadly vices, sloth or laziness tempts us to avoid taking such a step. The book of Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 4 states: “In seedtime, the sluggard plows not; when he looks for the harvest, it is not there.”
Lent is the seedtime, and the Easter season is the time of harvest.
I, for one, do not want to miss Lent this year. While the ashes are still fresh on my forehead, I want to take the initiative.
Recently in a morning homily, Pope Francis spoke of Sacred Scripture:
“May the Lord give us the grace to open our hearts for this encounter with His Word, and to not be afraid of joy, to not be afraid to make the feast of joy — a joy that flows precisely from this encounter with the Word of God.”
Listening is first and foremost about allowing God’s word, Sacred Scripture, to accompany us in these days of Lent. Consider reading the Scripture for that day before going to daily Mass.
Then, at the Holy Eucharist, be joined to that once-and-forever sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross and his resurrection.
Consider also the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession as a true means to be reconciled personally
Another good initiative, especially in this election year, is to view brand new videos on being a good and faithful citizen. Despite all of the contentious political dialogue and confrontations, these resources are a great way to continue to form your conscience correctly. There are five brief videos in all, prepared by the U.S. Conference of Bishops, on these topics:
- “Catholics Participate in Public Life.”
- “Catholics Protect Human Life and Dignity.”
- “Catholics Promote the Common Good.”
- “Catholics Love Their Neighbors.”
- A composite of all four entitled, “Faithful Citizens Work with Christ as He Builds His Kingdom.”
Watch the videos here.
As I write this column, I am at the Abbey of Gethsemani. This morning after Mass, I hiked to the woods where the statues are located. Right near the end of the path, about 25 paces from the mournful statue of Jesus kneeling in agony and in prayer, I found the three apostles who had fallen asleep — and Jesus just paces away. I said aloud, “Wake up. Jesus is near!”
We pray to avoid laziness as Lent begins. This is not about the speed with which we act but about resisting the temptation to fail to act at all. Take that step deliberately but with the urgency that Christ calls for. It is “seedtime” for planting so that joined to the Paschal Mystery, we might reap the Easter harvest.