Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The sin of indifference. . .

While there is no shortage of things to blame for the ills in the lives Christian and the Church, perhaps the most common sis that characterizes our culture and the Church today is acedia. Acedia has curiously  been identified as the “noonday devil” in the writings of Evagrius of Pontus (345-399, one of the Desert Fathers).  “Acedia” is from the Greek, ak├Ędia, meaning “lack of care” or indifference.  It comes at noonday when the energy of the morning wanes and the enthusiasm for the afternoon flags.  It is not simply a matter of the body or the mind but of the spirit -- a spirit of restlessness that translates into a lack of real concern.  The soul finds itself weary of and worn down by the commitments of life and even the demands of holiness.  So the spiritual life suffers every bit as much as productivity.  It is a kind of spiritual malaise which prevents the person from addressing both their identity and advancement in the spiritual life nurtured and nourished by the Word and the Sacraments.  St. Thomas Aquinas said acedia was a “sadness about spiritual good.”  It is when the ultimate purpose and outcome of our baptismal life takes second place to the present life and its demands, goals, joys, and trials.  It is the sadness and despair of the soul manifested in the rich man who was told by our Lord to sell everything he had and give it to the poor.  Acedia is when we compare the laudable goal and purpose of our baptismal lives of faith in union with God in Christ with the goods we have, enjoy, but must surrender for the true treasure of His grace.

We live in a time in which such spiritual indifference and restlessness pervades the Christian life.  We refuse to take refuge in God's promises and so we are consumed with the pressing stresses upon our daily lives and the fruit of it all is more than we can bear.  Our hearts are empty of joy and we struggle to get through day much less endure the struggles and sorrows of this mortal life knowing that God is with us and Christ present in us, for us, the through us.  It is not quite that we have lost our faith but we have lost a sense of purpose and our confidence in God's outcome and His promises wavers in the face of such pressures.  We become apathetic about the reality of God in our midst through the means of grace and indifferent to His work among us because we see only with our eyes and not with faith.  It is the worst kind of sloth -- not simply the lack of industry but of endurance in the faith who for the joy set before us bear our crosses and war against our weakness and battle against our enemies as children of God.

In part, it is because we are more aware of what is wrong than of the right that God has bestowed upon us in the present gift of baptismal life and faith and in the eternal gift of life that death cannot overcome and the blessed reunion with those who have gone before when what God has begun in us is finally finished on the day our Lord appoints.  Christians are not immune from acedia.  In fact, it may be one of the most profound and powerful of the ailments of the faithful and the faith.  It is the withering in us of what God has begun because we see what is not what should be -- even in ourselves -- and not what God has promised or what God is doing in us, for us, and through us.  

Almighty and everlasting God, give us an increase of faith, hope, and love that we may trust the testimony of Scripture concerning You and obtain what You have promised; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Indifference can creep in when we have too many choices. When the Church wasn’t a smorgasbord of denominations, doctrinal statements, orthodox and unorthodox, and even heretical offerings, were we so indifferent? The, “meh” of our lives comes along with an overload of choices. The issue is, the choices are ours and not God’s. If the Father chooses to be revealed in His Son, and in Scripture, the initial choice to seek elsewhere is not the sin of indifference, but of willful rebellion. What comes after that first choice is the disappointment of a choice that cannot satisfy or save. We therefore seek another choice, and continue to refuse obedience to the right choice. Choice, disappointment, choice, disappointment, repeat, repeat, repeat. We eventually reject the possibility of returning to God’s Way, and are jaded by our own failures. Amen to the prayer; may we all be shaken awake by the Scripture, and return to our first love.