3,000 Suscipiamurs, Plus Gluttony and Sloth


Wonders never cease! This morning there is an essay supporting the Pope in the Washington Post! On the other hand, the Baylor-Maryland women’s basketball matchup we hoped for is not going to happen.

…There are a few prayers of the Holy Mass which the priest prays silently. After the gifts are prepared on the altar, the priest bows and prays:

In spiritu humilitatis et in animo contrito suscipiamur ad te Domine, et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie ut placeat tibi Domine Deus.

(“In an humble spirit, and a contrite heart, may we be received by Thee, O Lord, and may our sacrifice be so offered up in Thy sight this day that it may please Thee, O Lord God.”)

This morning I bowed and said this prayer for the 3,000th time. May God be praised. Here is the homily I gave, the last in my Deadly-Sins series…

“Now is the time for the ruler of this world to be driven out” (John 12:31). The devil holds sway over us through sin, through our vices.

The Lord said, “when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32). By the power of His cross, Christ liberates us from the devil and fills us with virtue. Lent is a special time for fighting sin. The last two weeks of Lent are the time for the most intense battle.

christ-fastingWe have Lent because the Lord Jesus Himself fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days. In the Beatitudes, He declared that the hungry are blessed. Christ’s hunger might be His most distinctive characteristic. He was hungry, and He hungered for more than bodily food: “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent me,” He said. The Lord Jesus denied Himself food and water because He hungers and thirsts for us, for our souls.

On the other hand, the Lord did not fast all the time. He attended banquets and ate and drank with His friends.

When it came to feeding His sacred Body while He was on earth, the Lord neither indulged Himself nor despised physical nourishment. He observed the rule of virtue in eating and drinking: He was temperate. He ate when it was time to eat; He fasted when it was time to fast. He enjoyed the pleasures of the table, but not too much.

Belshazzar's Feast by Rembrandt--see Daniel 5
Belshazzar's Feast by Rembrandt--see Daniel 5
Gluttony is the sin of taking inordinate pleasure in food and drink. Gluttony was the sin of Jacob’s brother Esau in the Old Testament. Esau sold his inheritance for a mess of pottage.

The question we have to meditate on is this: What really is satisfying? There is nothing wrong with enjoying a nice meal at the proper time, God knows. But the pleasures of the table are fleeting. The only truly lasting satisfaction comes from above, from Christ Who is the true manna from heaven. As the Lord put it, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

When we think of gluttony, we usually think of someone who gorges like a ravening animal. But there is a second type of gluttony. We can also fall into this sin by being overly fussy about what we eat, spending too much money on fancy food, or letting sumptuous eating become our main preoccupation.

Fighting gluttony and cultivating temperance is largely a matter of common sense. Our bodies are made for temperance. But bad habits can weaken our ability to know when and how much to eat and drink. The Church comes to our aid by guiding us to fast at certain times and to feast at others.

vitruvian-manThe key to temperance is putting God first and faithfully living the yearly rhythm of the Church’s seasons. Everybody needs to eat—but prayer and the spiritual life come first.

The Lord Jesus taught us by His own routine how to put religion first. His life on earth revolved around His religious observances, going to the synagogue and the Temple. By maintaining the rhythm our religion gives us, we learn to rest our souls in the truth of God. This is what God commands us to do: Keep holy the Sabbath day. Our true rest, our true peace, is in God—in Him and in nothing else.

The problem is that the Devil can trick us into thinking that practicing the Catholic faith is too hard. Church every Sunday? Pray every day? Study, so that I can understand my faith and teach it to others? Meditate regularly on the Word of God and the profound questions of life? The Devil tries to tell us that these things are too difficult.

The most widespread vice in our day and age may be spiritual laziness. We usually picture sloth as the recumbent couch-potato, staring slack-jawed at the boob-tube. But the capital sin of sloth is something more dangerous: Sloth is the vice of skipping the spiritual life, because we think it is too hard.

Now, cultivating an interior life IS hard. God is invisible, He is quiet, and He is unfathomably mysterious. As the years go by, it can become harder and harder to persevere in the life of prayer and spiritual discipline.

homerThere are plenty of slackjawed couch-potatoes in this world. But I think the most common form of sloth these days is actually excessive, shallow busy-ness. You can be on-the-run all the time–cellphone chirping constantly, blackberry full of e-mails–and still be more slothful than Homer Simpson.

The one thing that we must do is seek God. We were made for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Anyone who blows off the interior search for God is slothful.

Allow me to propose a couple remedies for sloth. First: regular, frequent Confession. Humbly to examine one’s conscience and confess one’s sins is a sure-fire cure for spiritual laziness.

Second: spiritual reading. Anyone who does even five minutes of spiritual reading a day is not slothful. If we give the Lord some time and attention, He will make good use of it.

Let us hunger for God. Let us tirelessly seek Him. May He give us the grace to conquer gluttony and sloth, and all the deadly sins.

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