During our Retreat I’ve been reading an interesting book about the Seven Deadly Sins; which are, of course: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth. The current chapter is all about the Sin of Sloth, which is also known as laziness. When Christian writers warn about the Sin of Sloth, they were not trying to get people to fill every waking moment with work. Rather, just the opposite. The great Dominican scholar Saint Thomas Aquinas described Sloth as ‘the Sin against the Sabbath.’
The Sabbath is, of course, the seventh day, the day when God rested after the work of Creation. God makes the Sabbath ‘holy’ and he intends it to be a day set apart from the six other days on which we work and earn a living. In this way the Sabbath becomes the most important day of the week: it becomes a day dedicated to God.
And this is why Sloth is the Sin against the Sabbath: Sloth is a refusal to do the most important work of the week, which is to worship God. The Catechism of the Church teaches us that: ‘acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.’ (ccc2094)
Many people nowadays, in their pursuit to earn a living, will no doubt say: ‘I have more productive things I can do on a Sunday morning.’ But the most productive thing any human being can do is to spend time with God, to worship him. As Catholics we acknowledge the truth that the Eucharist is the source and the summit of our entire lives; everything else we do: all the good works, all the acts of charity, flow from what we do here this morning. This is why we set precious time apart every Sunday in order to worship God.
The readings for today’s Mass support this practice. In the Epistle Saint Paul talks about going to Arabia because he wanted time alone, he literally wanted to go out into the desert to be with God, he wanted to go to a place without distractions where he could thank God for his mercy. And that’s exactly what we do at Mass – the word ‘Eucharist’ means to express thanks.
And from gratitude flows wonder and praise. It’s interesting that we hear today about a boy and a young man brought back from death. These miracles caused people to praise God; the gospel says: ‘they glorified God.’ At Mass when the priest holds up the consecrated Host – the Body of Christ – many of us will quietly say in adoration: ‘My Lord and my God’ – a beautiful act of glorifying God.
The Sabbath should be a time of joy and peace, but it can be the hardest thing we do all week. A hundred things have more appeal: sports, TV, the Sunday papers, surfing the Internet. Or even work, like mowing the lawn and weeding the garden. Good and necessary things to do, but we can fool ourselves and think that because we’re working hard, we’re not being lazy or slothful; we’re being productive and doing something useful. So what can possibly be wrong with that?
I know it sounds like a contradiction but even frenetic activity can represent laziness. Let me give you a personal example. Years ago, when I lived in community in Storrington, I had charge of several guests who were staying with us. They were amusing themselves so I went into the kitchen to unload the dishwasher. Anyone coming in might think I was hard at it, but in fact I was being lazy. I should have been with the guests, taking care of their needs and just being with them. The dishwasher could have waited. Something similar applies to our relationship with God. Yes, I might be working hard and doing something useful on Sunday; I might even quietly congratulate myself on being diligent, but in reality I was lazy. I was avoiding the most important work and committing the Sin of Sloth: The Sin Against The Sabbath.
I’m sure we are all hoping that the weather will improve as the summer months’ approach, when we’re able to relax and perhaps go away on holiday, and have some time to ourselves and our families and friends; but above all for what matters most. When you put God first, everything else will find its right place. And that’s why it’s quite natural after Sunday Mass to have some quiet time or time with the family, to strengthen the bonds of community. Sunday afternoon is a great time for a good read or a nap before we resume the work of our daily lives tomorrow.
Sunday is the Lord’s Day, let us dedicate this day to Him.