Sunday, May 08, 2005

the good is difficult

Right now I'm reading Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla, the man who later became Pope John Paul II. This book is, like all JPII's writings, beautifully insightful, and furthermore, is something that I very badly need to hear at this point in my life. In a chapter entitled "The Rehabilitation of Chastity" he mentions that, "St. Thomas [Aquinas] defines sloth... as 'a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult'." This struck me as very odd. Sloth is a sin... but the good is difficult. How can it be a sin to believe that? We also know that the opposite of sloth is diligence, so by extension, this must mean that diligence is not a sadness, but a joy arising from the fact that the good is difficult. But who can really live like that? Who can be truly joyful that the road to holiness is so hard?

I was reminded of the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-26. The rich young man, we are told, "went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.'" This sounds exactly like St. Thomas's definition of sloth. In fact, the Bible never says that the rich young man doesn't sell his posessions to come and follow the Lord, but we can be sure that if he does, he's rather slow and reluctant to do it. Speaking from the experience of just about every task of my entire life, one simply can't perform a task well and quickly when one is feeling weighed down by how difficult the task will be.

So what hope do I and the rich young man have of overcoming this sloth? As the disciples ask, "Who then can be saved?" " Jesus looked at them and said, 'For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.'" My delight is in the Lord who does not leave me alone with this difficult task of being good. He has called me to this task, and he will give me the strength to work at it.

It is very telling that the story immediately before this is when Jesus says, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." I remember when as a child I would delight to be given a new task - to sweep the floor or clean the mirrors (I always loved washing windows and mirrors). I'm sure I did not do a good job of it, but my mom was pleased with the effort that I made. I pray that my father God will likewise see my little inadequate attempts and be pleased with them. I am glad that He has asked me to take part in His work. He has not asked me to repaint the house or build a new front door, only to wash a few windows. I mess up sometimes and leave dirt and streaks, but I know that each time I make an effort, he looks upon my poor work with the love of a Father who sees his child trying to imitate Him.

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