I don’t watch TV. Well, I will watch a ballgame sometimes but, other than that, I try to stay away from TV. That means I don’t watch the news. I think it has become obvious to anyone paying attention, especially over the last few years, that our news outlets are either outright lying to us or, at very least, not telling us the whole story.
I do, however, pay attention to several independent journalists. You know, the ones that are on the ground in the places from which they are reporting, not sitting in some studio wearing makeup. I was listening to one the other day talking about corruption and such within our government and I heard something that resonated with truth.
“Convenience is the carrot.”
Now, she was not talking about spiritual things; she was talking about other things. But man, there is so much truth in this when it comes to our spiritual life as well. What is it that keeps us from living the life Christ has called us to? What is it that keeps us from taking up our cross and following the Lord Jesus, no matter the cost?
“Convenience is the carrot.”
We do not do what Holy Scripture demands of us because it’s inconvenient. We do not do what Holy Tradition demands of us because it’s inconvenient.
We are slaves to our convenience.
Not too long ago, I visited a monastery in West Virginia and spent the weekend there. I have longed to spend time at a monastery for some time, but the past two years have made that rather difficult. I have always been attracted to the monastic way of life and ethos. I was not disappointed. The weekend was wonderful.
The entire weekend was spent away from all the conveniences of my life in the world. My cell phone would not work (what a lovely thing!), there were no TVs anywhere to be seen, no music blaring, no sound of traffic, no social media. There were hours of prayer and silence. The monks chanting, the candles burning, reverencing the holy icons, being soaked in incense…it was soul-filling, peaceful and challenging.
Saturday night at the monastery was spent standing in the Vigil service for over three hours. Yes, you read that correctly. We stood and prayed and gave confession and received absolution and prayed some more for three hours. And it was glorious.
There was no convenience to be had. It was hard work but also highly rewarding. The carrot for me that weekend was a deeper life of prayer and union with Christ.
I have spoken a lot about this but the sooner we divorce ourselves from the convenience of this world, the better off our souls will be. I’ll give you an example. What do we do on Saturday evenings? Most of us will spend Saturday evenings immersing ourselves in whatever entertainment venue we choose. Could be family movie night, could be a card game, going out to eat, drinking, whatever.
The point is that rarely do we spend Saturday night in silence. Rarely, if ever, do we spend Saturday night in prayer or reading Holy Scripture or some piece of spiritual writing, in preparation for worship on Sunday. No, we spend our time indulging in our pleasures.
St. John Chrysostom (Homily 13 on 1 Timothy) has this to say about those who live in pleasure,
“A man who lives in pleasure, is dead while he lives. For he lives only to his belly. In his other senses he lives not. He sees not what he ought to see, he hears not what he ought to hear, he speaks not what he ought to speak. Nor does he perform the actions of the living. But as he who is stretched upon a bed, with his eyes closed, and his eyelids fast, perceives nothing that is passing; so it is with this man, or rather not so, but worse. For the one is equally insensible to things good and evil, but the latter is sensible to things evil only, but as insensible as the former to things good. Thus he is dead. For nothing relating to the life to come moves or affects him.”
Read that again. A man (or woman) who lives in pleasure is dead. He lives only to satisfy his appetites. He cannot see or hear what’s really going on and he cannot speak as he ought. St. John says, if this is how we live our lives, we’re as good as stretched out on a bed, passed out and blind to the world around us. Nothing related to the life to come moves or affects us.
This is us, dear reader. We are the dead ones. We spend our time in useless and trivial pursuits, satisfying our appetites for entertainment and our belly, our lusts and our conveniences. And we are largely dead to the things of the life to come.
One of our biggest problems is that we don’t really believe that there is such a thing as eternity. Our minds can’t grasp it and so we don’t truly believe it. Or, what we’ve been told about eternity is this nebulous notion of “heaven” in which we’ll all sit around and live this disembodied and ethereal life and float around. No, friends. We are flesh and we will be in the life to come. Albeit, redeemed and made new, born again into true humanity as it was in the beginning. And that life will last forever.
C.S. Lewis talked about this truth when he said,
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Our desires are too weak. We are half-hearted, seeking the carrot of convenience and our ease when infinite joy and communion with our God is offered to us. We are far too easily pleased and placated. Our souls will pay the price.
When we are tempted, brothers and sisters, to pursue the things of the world, to compromise, to be distracted, to be lulled to sleep by our appetites, we must never forget: Convenience is the carrot the devil offers us. It is far too inconvenient for us to pick up our cross and follow Christ. But if we do not, our souls and the souls of our children will pay the price.
My family and I live close to St. Meinrad Archabbey and, this morning, we attended Mass at the Archabbey church. Albeit virtually (which is a whole ‘nother subject but don’t get me started) but we were there.
The thick and weighty silence that punctuates the parts of the Mass at the Archabbey, the chanting of the Psalter, the quiet shuffling of the monk’s feet, the architecture, the solemn joy with which the monks sing…so beautiful; it feeds my soul and brings tears to my eyes each and every time.
I don’t know the monk who preached the homily but it was outstanding and I wanted to talk about it for a bit. The gospel reading for today is Matthew 13:1-23. Go and read that before you proceed.
This is the parable of the seed and the sower. I want to tell you right out of the gate that my thoughts on this are not entirely my own. The monk who preached the homily did the exegetical work (and it was outstanding) and his words I will basically echo here, with a few of my own additions.
If you’re like me you’ve probably heard this text preached a few times. Every time I’ve heard it preached, the focus was always on the soil. Usually, the preacher would draw some application about being the right kind of soil. But the brother that preached this morning did something brilliant with this parable and it needs to be heard.
His focus in the parable was not on the soil. Rather, it was on the opposition to the seed. Look at the text and you’ll see it. See it in your mind and heart.
Hungry, squawking birds (I always picture crows) gobbling up the seed.
Rocky, flinty soil that seems to almost be “bullet proof” as the seed literally bounces off the hard, cracked surface.
Scorching sun that blasts things to powder under its relentless gaze.
Spiny thorns literally choking the life out of the tender shoots that bloom.
Do you see it?
The sower and the seed are opposed. It’s a powerful image, isn’t it?
Kinda reminds me of the world we live in today. Make no mistake, friends, the Sower and His seed are under assault and open opposition. The gospel of Jesus Christ and His person are openly opposed by the current culture in which we find ourselves. The Church is under open and naked attack by our great enemy and those who are under his control.
The Sower and His seed are opposed.
In the face of the world and the darkness that seems to grow on a moment by moment basis, what are we to do? We who are the Church, we the seed sown by the master Sower. What are we to do? Do we take up arms? Do we retreat from the squawking and ravenous enemies of the Light? Do we beg for rain that this dry and hot sun of opposition would be banished from the Earth? How can we fight against the thorns that seem to choke the life out of us?
I submit to you for this answer our Old Testament reading for today. Our master Sower speaks in Isaiah 55:10-11,
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!
We who are the seed of the Sower of the Word, look and listen and take heart! Look at the promise of God! He has promised. The Sower has spoken. His seed will bring forth sprouts and bread to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! His Word will not return to Him empty. His Word shall accomplish all that He intends! His Word shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it!
In the face of a decaying society and blazing heat of the opposition of the enemy, do not despair beloved!
Hope in Christ!
His Word shall not fail!
His Word shall not fail!
His Word shall not fail!