There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, about an editor soliciting well-known writers to answer the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” The briefest response received was from G.K. Chesterton who wrote, “Dear Sir, I am.” Certainly, any one of us, sinners all, could respond to that question in the same way. But, while acknowledging that I’ve contributed to the mess by my sins, cleaning up that mess requires me to examine and work on my vices. If I were to choose just one for the world to work on it would be sloth. The Catholic Encyclopedia includes this interesting bit based on the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas describing exactly what sloth involves:
Do you see where I’m going with this? As Christians we all have a “serious obligation” to bring as many people to God as we possibly can. The message Jesus gave the apostles before he ascended was to convert the whole world. It’s impossible to do that without imitating John the Baptist, i.e., calling people to reform their lives and hear the good news, accept Jesus Christ as Lord, and be baptized in His name. What, however, is the predominant attitude of many Christians today? Ear tickling out of human respect. Many people would rather offend God than their children or friends. Why? Because “the idea of right living inspires…disgust, because of its laboriousness.” The “service of God” is “beset with difficulties” and “chafes.” So the person chooses the easy way out – compromise. He trades truth for sweet lies that let him remain comfortable and stroked by family and friends. And that is sloth. Meanwhile, those deprived of the truth travel the “primrose path of dalliance” that leads straight to hell, because the one who should have spoken the truth chose silence. His “love” was not for the other but for himself. And that, my friends, is a love that kills.
Let’s get specific here with some real life examples. Two sons decide to marry outside the Church because their girlfriends don’t want Catholic weddings. Both sets of parents raised their sons in the faith. The young men know the truth, but prefer to follow “Eve.” How do the parents respond? The first express concern but, when their son says if they don’t attend the wedding (in a Baptist church) that will prove they don’t love him, they succumb to the pressure, join all the pre-wedding festivities, pay for the rehearsal dinner, and attend the wedding and reception. Ten years later their son, his wife, and their three grandchildren are essentially dead to the faith. The second set of parents sit down with their son, tell him they cannot attend a wedding outside the Church because it is a mortal sin, the marriage will be invalid, and they cannot celebrate such an act. When he tells them that proves they don’t love him, they say they love him enough to tell the truth and try to prevent him from making a decision that endangers his soul. He goes away angry.
Two results are possible. The son may go ahead with his plans and break off the relationship with his parents. But in one case I know of, what actually happened was the son and his fiancé began making plans for a marriage in the Church. Their differences became more obvious, however, and, within a few months, the relationship broke up. Two years later he married a Catholic girl and they are raising their children in the faith. God rewarded the faithfulness of the parents who showed tough love to their son. There was no guarantee, though; rejection was a real possibility.
Ear-tickling by parents, friends, and even clergy is one of the most serious enablers of evil in today’s culture. Some parents succumb to a child’s emotional blackmail allowing fornication under their own roof. Many refuse to “judge” an adult child’s bad decision and support evil -- a daughter’s desire for abortion or a son’s entry into the homosexual lifestyle. Most Protestant denominations fled the battlefield years ago and now approve of every violation of God’s law (except tithing). The truth to them is just one dish, an unpopular one, in the cafeteria of moral decision making. How many souls have been and will be lost due to silence from family and friends or the family of the Church? What kind of love chooses a bogus “peace” at the price of endangering souls?
I once read a story about a woman living the lesbian lifestyle. One day her mother, a serious Chrisitian, told her, “I’m afraid after I die I’ll never see you again.” The mother’s honest and heartfelt lament was a challenge that brought her beloved child face to face with her sin. It was the beginning of her conversion and return to the Lord.
Every Christian who truly loves others must struggle to overcome the vice of sloth, sometimes referred to as the “noonday devil.” In one ear, the noonday devil whispers, “What’s the use? You can’t make any difference. Why alienate your child? Take the easy way out.” The guardian angel responds, “Stay awake. Be on guard. Pray at all times for strength.” To which voice will we listen?
The Catholic Encyclopedia concludes its entry on sloth with this:
Let us pray to love our children and friends enough to speak the truth in charity. Tough love, grounded in God’s law is a virtue. Tolerance of evil, mislabeled “love,” is the love that kills – both soul and body. Wise men never confuse the two!