Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Do You Have a Problem with Acedia?

I did a reflection for our Women's Bible Study on The Visitation. Through prayer, I felt that the point of The Visitation was, for me, at this time, a cure for acedia. Here's the reflection I presented:  

Acedia.  How many have heard that word?  Probably not very many. It's from the Greek word akedia. It's used in terms of spiritual apathy. It's also called the "noon day devil." You know that tiredness that comes over us around lunchtime? We've lost our first energy of the day and we just feel like taking a nap? The rest of the list for the day, well, I'll do it some other time.  It's that laziness or indifference in our spiritual lives. Not direct acts of evil, but a refusal to do the good because it takes too much time. It costs too much. It's too uncomfortable. It's such a little thing that it's not worth it. I can't be bothered. It's an indifference to our spiritual lives and our salvation.

We've all been apathetic at one time or another. After Easter, I used the leftover ham in a family recipe that called for horseradish. After I added it to the casserole, I did the math and realized that I'd had that same bottle for, oh, three years. My apathy could have led to the poisoning of my family, but I called Mom and Dad and they said, with their usual confidence in man's ability to overcome anything, "Three years? That's nothing. You'll be fine." And we were. I think the reason that it's so easy to give into apathy is because it doesn't require any effort. :)

So does that mean we're all doomed unless we become spiritual dynamos? I don't think so.

Once, when I was meditating, I saw a well. It went deep into the earth and I couldn't see the bottom. It was as black as pitch, as if there wasn't only an absence of light, but even air. It was suffocating. It was evil. It was the path to hell, the place where Satan sucked souls down into the dark nothingness where God isn't present because the souls there choose to break from Him.

But above ground, surrounding the well on the earth, there were lights. And the lights kept multiplying. Southern Californians are very familiar with fires and how fire spreads. It leaps from branch to branch and envelop everything that's in its path. These lights were us, spreading the light of Christ.

How do you stop a fire? You take away the fuel. The fuel of this fire is God's unfathomable love, the flame of His Sacred Heart, the burning love of His Word. 

And I realized that God's fuel would never run out. While there was still this hole, this well, people would have to get close enough to the well to get sucked in, but the lights would keep multiplying and spreading, and the well would never catch up.  

What does this have to do with the visitation?

  Here's Luke 1:39 from the NIV.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,

From the NABRE:  

 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,

Mary was on fire with the love of God. She had a mission and she didn't dawdle.  If it were me being told that Elizabeth were pregnant in her old age, I might stop to think about how inconvenient it would be. Maybe Elizabeth would settle for a phone call, or a carrier pigeon, or maybe I could send word through someone who was already headed in that direction. I would make excuses. I need to take care of myself. Or, I'm sure Elizabeth is really busy getting ready for her child. I'll only be in the way.  Or, it's not as if she's having the baby tomorrow. I can wait a month and get things in order here before I leave. Did I cover them all?

Mary had the best excuse ever.  She was pregnant with the Son of God, and she could have thought, "I need to take care of myself." But the Angel Gabriel made it known that her cousin was in a position where she would need Mary's help, and Mary hurried.  She traveled in haste. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she was on fire, and she spread that light.

And I love that she put her faith in God that He would take care of the details, because it WAS dangerous to travel back then. There were robbers. There were wild animals.  I looked it up online. I saw cute things in the desert around Judah, like gazelles and hares, but there are also wolves, jackals, leopards, and there used to be bears and lions.  That's why people traveled together. So Mary caught the first caravan and left.

There is so much evil at work in the world today. Sometimes it's obvious, like the killing of Christians in the Middle East, but more often, it's subtle. It's that noonday devil slipping in and whispering in our ear that the thing we were going to speak out against might hurt someone's feelings, or make us unpopular. That kind act that we were going to do really isn't important in the scheme of things. Maybe you see a woman who looks like she could use a kind word and you think, "I don't really know her. I'll be imposing on her. Who am I to think I could help her." So you remain silent. You don't spread the fire.

There is an 80/20 rule. 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  So 80% of the people don't care, or they think someone else will take care of the ministries or the volunteer work or the evangelizing. Well, you and I are that someone else. You and I need to be that 20%.

So how do we overcome the demon of acedia and hurry to do God's will in our lives? 

The book Noon Day Devil has a few suggestions.  One of them is prayer and work. Having a prayer life in which you talk to God every day keeps you in informed. You will know Him, and you will know His will for you.  As for work, you can't be listless when you're being active, whether it's your day job or making dinner, doing the laundry, or wiping a kid's sticky face. You're spreading the light of Christ to your husband, your children, your coworkers.

Another way to counter acedia is with contradiction. This is having scripture verses handy to counter those whispers that tell you what you're doing doesn't matter, or can wait.  Here are a few:

When I feel that what I'm doing just doesn't matter, or I think I'll give that volunteer work or that prayer time a pass, or if I can't come up with time to talk to God, or I think I go to Mass on Sunday. Why bother with weekday Mass. That's so fanatic, and besides. I want to sleep in. I can turn to

Colossians 3:23Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others,  
Offer everything up to the Lord. That load of dishes you're washing. Make it a prayer. A prayer can turn the mundane into the sacred.

Of course, stress is always a problem. I work at home, which means I'm easy prey for people who want to talk to me. My mother calls me almost every day. There are times when I see her on the caller ID and I'm in the middle of something important. But my mother won't be around forever, and I doubt if I will remember those important things, but I'll remember the time I didn't give her.

Or there are times when I'm worried about all the things I have to get done, and I blow off my prayer time. Then I can turn to

Luke 12:26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?

There is a reason why Jesus kept telling us not to be afraid. It's because fear is the biggest snuffer of lights out there.

I encourage you to look through your Bibles to find a favorite verse of Scripture. I love Proverbs when I'm looking for practical advice. Write it down if your memory is like mine, and when you feel that apathy, when you think it's time for a break from your spiritual practices or your mission, or you feel your love for Jesus starting to flicker, pull it out and read it. Say a quick prayer. And be part of that 20%.  

One final thought. Gratitude.  We have so much. We have our friends here in Bible study. We just had a wonderful breakfast, so we're not hungry. We have this wonderful church, the Eucharist. But sometimes, we're like children at Christmas. You know how kids will open a ton of presents, and then they'll lay there like slugs, sighing. "But I didn't get what I really wanted!"

Gratitude makes it difficult to be apathetic. Gratitude can fill you with energy, and it can remind you of the God who is so good and then maybe put us in the frame of mind where we want to give him everything, in haste.

Open you're Bibles to  Luke 1:46  and we'll close by reciting the ultimate prayer of gratitude, the Magnificat.

Luke 1:46-55
The Canticle of Mary.  And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
    my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
    from now on will all ages call me blessed.
 The Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
 His mercy is from age to age
    to those who fear him.
 He has shown might with his arm,
    dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
    but lifted up the lowly.
 The hungry he has filled with good things;
    the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped Israel his servant,
    remembering his mercy,

 according to his promise to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

No comments:

Post a Comment