One of the important things about prayer is that when you are in prayer you are also open to God. You have initiated a conversation. It is easier to receive what God has to say to us when we have opened the line of communication with God than when we have not opened communication with God. Jesus is teaching us today about staying in prayer.
Let’s continue our discussion of the Seven Deadly Sins. This will help us understand prayer.
There is this seven-headed monster that each one of us has to fight our whole life through. This monster is SELF-SEEKING or SELF-LOVE. Its seven heads are: Pride, Covetousness or Avarice, Lust, Anger, Envy, Gluttony and Sloth. Bishop Fulton Sheen called them “the seven pall-bearers of the soul”; they lead to eternal death.
Sin separates us from God. Mortal sin is deadly sin when it kills our love for God, and separates us from God. Mortal sin is like suicide. God does not kill sinners. Sinners kill themselves through their own selfish decisions. Remember, there is no eternal life apart from God. Mortal sin cuts us off from our final destiny: Heaven, our eternal Salvation. That makes the Seven Deadly Sins eternally deadly. These are always personal decisions. When you commit them you lose eternal life, if you do not repent and confess.
Today we will consider the deadly sin of Sloth. Sloth is spiritual laziness, although it includes laziness of the body, as well. But let’s not get distracted simply by physical laziness. Spiritual laziness is much more serious. Sloth is caused by a certain lack of trust in God and makes us indifferent in the use of the means necessary for our sanctification. Sloth is an aversion to spiritual effort and devotion, which leads to the neglect of grace. Its worst effect is to make us put off our return to God after mortal sin.
How many souls have neglected their Easter duty, or have fallen away from Church, or have come to accept that it is OK simply to go to Sunday Mass occasionally, or that it is OK to miss Mass once in a while? How many of us have ceased to go to regular Confession, endangering our eternal salvation because we cannot break the bonds of spiritual Sloth?
Sloth makes us refuse to co-operate with God’s grace. Sloth inclines us to dangerous habits of sin and leads us to despair of breaking away from the slavery of sin. In Sloth we cannot find God. Sloth brings on spiritual dryness, as it is an inaction of the will which destroys love. When we become indifferent we cease to love. Sloth leads us to the loss of love and the loss of our soul.
Perseverance is the remedy for Sloth. A priest friend of mine tells his parishioners to, “Fake it until you make it.” It is not really fake. It is persistence and self-discipline. This is exactly what God asks of us.
Today’s readings call for us to, “Fake it until you make it.” Look at Moses in the first reading. Moses sent Joshua into battle against the pagan king Amalek. Moses was too old to fight, but he could pray. Moses prayer proved to be the most important element of the Israelite defense and victory. He told Joshua he would be praying on top of the hill overlooking the battleground. Moses said his prayer would include holding up the staff of God in his hand. We see people do that praying the Rosary, holding Mary’s staff while they pray fervently. We see spiritual battle when people adore the Blessed Sacrament.
When Moses held up the staff of God, the Israelites under Joshua got the better of Amalek. However, when his arms and his prayer grew tired and waned, Amalek started winning.
Moses had to persist in his promise of prayer. So Aaron and Hur got a rock for Moses to sit on and then held up his arms for the duration of the fight. Have you ever gathered to pray for a loved one who was hospitalized and fighting for his or her life? Did you persevere in prayer with others? That is what this story is about.
When we come to Church to pray, we help each other to persist in prayer by praying together in word and song. By our very presence we hold up the arms of one another, as they do for us. Why do we go to Mass on Sunday? To help one another! We often hear people say they don’t go because they don’t get anything out of it. That is hogwash! They get more out of it than they realize, through prayer support. And, they bring more to the community by joining in the prayer of the community. That is powerful. When you are absent, the community loses your support, perhaps because of your spiritual Sloth.
Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
In the parable about the corrupt judge and the woman who seeks a favorable judgment from him, we hear Jesus’ call to persistence in prayer.
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
St. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, emphasizes the importance of persistence in sharing our faith and proclaiming the Gospel always,
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.
Otherwise, as Jesus tells his listeners,
… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Don’t be slothful. Don’t miss Mass and Confession. Pray. Always pray.