Difficulties in Prayer: Acedia

Based upon Catechism paragraph 2733:

One of the most pernicious temptations to infiltrate our prayer life is a certain sluggishness, laziness, or lack of interest in pursuing the things of God. The proper term for this is “acedia,” spiritual sloth.

While our emotions are subject to change, and it’s only natural for our energy or enthusiasm to level off, acedia goes deeper than feelings. It burrows into our will, where we make the choice to pray or not, to seek God’s will or not, to strive to be a better disciple, or not.

Acedia can be the result of presumption. If we take our salvation for granted, believe that God doesn’t expect anything of us, or think that holiness is for other people, we will likely not have much motivation for the spiritual life.

But we can overcome acedia by remembering the high stakes involved – nothing less than our eternal destiny. Do we want to accept God’s offer of salvation? Then we cooperate with God’s saving grace by attending Mass, remaining faithful to personal prayer, doing our best to avoid sin, and seeking forgiveness when we fall short. By fighting the fight, so to speak, we answer His call to holiness, even in the midst of our human frailty.

Because acedia can be described as insufficient love for God, reflecting on God’s intense, personal love for us can also fire our motivation. How can we be indifferent to the Lord Who has thought of us from all eternity, created the world for us, mapped out salvation history for us, became man for us, suffered and died for us, redeemed us, and wants to sanctify us so that we may delight in eternal life with Him?

Engaging the Gospel – First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent (Year B): Gospel – Mark 13:33-37

As we ring in the new Church year, the Gospel continues the theme of vigilantly anticipating the Lord’s coming.

During this season of Advent, we prepare in a special way for our celebration of Christ’s birth, while remembering that He comes to us on multiple levels.

“God is the ‘One who comes,’” as St. John Paul II reminds us:

He came among us in the person of Jesus Christ; He comes again in the Church’s sacraments and in every human being who asks our help; He will come in glory at the end of time. This is why Advent is marked by watchful and active expectation.

Angelus of November 28, 1999.

Therefore Jesus not only “calls His hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness” (Catechism paragraph 2612), and He “urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with His own” (2849).

This encouragement to be vigilant serves as an important antidote to a variety of human weaknesses, for it is easy to become indifferent, lukewarm, or even ungrateful to God (2094).

Such spiritual laziness is called acedia, which includes “lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of the heart” (2733). In contrast, “vigilance is custody of the heart…The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch” (2849).

Prayer is essential to this spirit of vigilance: “In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes…only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation” (2612).

Question for reflection: How do I respond to the Lord’s call to vigilance?