As I stood in line for confession, folding and unfolding the little slip of paper I had written my sins on, asking the Lord to tell me if I had forgotten anything – the words of the Confiteor came to me:
“…in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault….”
“Things I had failed to do” were not on my list. In fact, things I had failed to do were not part of my examination of conscience at all.
Next time, maybe I’ll use the seven deadly sins as my standard, because right at the end comes one that we often neglect: the sin of sloth or acedia. A sin that, if we let it, has the potential to pack our lives with sins of omission.
Week 7: Psalm 143 — “From the sin of sloth, O Lord, deliver me…”
When you give room to sloth, lethargy, sadness, and indifference cloud your soul like a fog. Sloth is spiritual apathy: a wet blanket on the heart. St. Thomas Aquinas called it “an oppressive sorrow which so weighs upon a man’s mind that he wants to do nothing.”
Sloth comes when you stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It’s the refusal of charity: deliberately not doing those things you know you should do. Peter Kreeft called it “laziness in heavenly tasks.” With sloth, good works – the fruits of our faith – are still-born.
Sloth can masquerade as depression, and it’s easy to treat it like a disease to be medicated – but sloth is a sin that can be forgiven, healed, and washed away.
If you feel yourself sliding into sloth: run to God in prayer! Ask him to stir your spirit into life, to give you the grace to do the things you know you should. Then do something good you know you should do, but haven’t.
Here are a few verses you might want to look up and ponder as you examine your conscience with regard to sloth. Then take any need you find in your own heart to God for healing as you pray with Psalm 143. (Anyone who’s struggled with sloth will recognize the feelings described in the first half. And it provides a time-tested antidote, too! (Read my meditation on it here).
“From the sin of sloth, O Lord, deliver me…”
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Read my post on praying with the Penitential Psalms for Lent.