So, let me tell you how my life has been ever since I published my reflection on the sin of acedia yesterday. I wasted at least an hour watching YouTube videos and checking my Twitter feed, I fell asleep during my holy hour in church, I mindlessly snacked on junk food in the rectory kitchen instead of making a proper dinner for myself, and this morning I hit the snooze button. Ugh. Acedia.
Almost everyone struggles with acedia to some degree. The beginning of success in the struggle against it is to recognize it, because then we can engage in the battle against it. G.K. Chesterton used to say: “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” There’s something in that which helps us in the struggle with acedia because if we start to consider our lives as adventures, things will start to change. We will begin to recognize that every moment is lived under the loving gaze of the Lord who is inviting us, through the epic adventure of our life to become more like Him. It is all about living our lives more thoughtfully and with greater intentionality.
Our Lord’s parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30) illustrates for us what acedia is. The master goes on a journey and calls three of his servants, entrusting each of them a sum of money, according to his abilities. One receives five talents, the other two, the third receives one talent. The first servant goes “at once” and traded with the money and made another five talents. The second does the same, and also doubles his investment. The third dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. When the master returns and demands a settlement of their accounts, he praises the first two servants. But when the third servant reveals what he’s done, that out of fear of the master he buried the treasure in the ground, the master gets angry. The master points out that his fear should have moved him to at least put the money in a bank where he would have received some interest. He punishes the servant, sending him out into the darkness.
When we give into acedia, we treat what God has given us the way the third servant treated the master’s money. The third servant buried what he had received, the same way one would bury a dead thing in a tomb. He went on living his life, trying to distract himself from the feeling of dread that would come over him when he thought about the master’s return. Not even doing the minimum to avoid punishment. In the mind of the servant, receiving the talent from the master was a burden and the worst thing that could have happened to him. It does not occur to him to see it as an opportunity for adventure. He is trapped in the vice of acedia.
We shed the chains of acedia by loving Christ. We can cultivate greater love for Him by simply stopping at various moments of the day to remind ourselves that He is with us. We do it by making little aspirational prayers, such as: “God, come to my assistance,” or “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me,” or “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in thee.” Knowing He is present, that He loves us, and has a plan for us has a transformative effect. Instead of craving idleness, novelty, and distraction (signs of acedia), our hearts will begin to thirst for the things of God. He does not want us to fail. He wants us to succeed. He gives us everything we need to become holy and free from those things that try to hold us back and make us approach life as a dreadful inconvenience rather than the adventure that it is.
Please join us for a “drive-thru” FOOD DRIVE on 5/16 from 11am-1pm in the parking lot of St. Cecilia Church at 1184 Newfield Ave. in Stamford. Donations will help Stamford’s own New Covenant Center. Drop off food for the needy and Fr. Olbrys and Fr. Connaughton will give you and your family a blessing!