Exodus 2: 1-15
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting; and he said to the one who was in the wrong, “Why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?” He answered, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.
But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian.
Psalm 69: 3, 14, 30-31, 33-34
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me.
But I am lowly and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
Matthew 11: 20-24
Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Jesus has some harsh words today for those who had heard His message but had not changed their lives. The same gentle Lord who befriends sinners and did not come to condemn the world nevertheless does not shrink back from telling the truth about the danger of purposely separating oneself from God. And the sin He was speaking of today was the sin of spiritual sloth, also known as lukewarmness. This sin is not talked about much, but is a very real weakness of the human condition, and probably the biggest threat to our ability to grow in holiness, so it would benefit us to examine it more closely today.
St. John Vianney describes lukewarmness as wanting to be worldly without ceasing to be a child of God, and a lukewarm soul as one who “gives one hand to the world and one hand to God, then weary of wanting to give his allegiance to both, ends by giving it to the world alone.” In other words, someone who is lukewarm or commits spiritual sloth just does not try. They might go through the motions of faith, but do not challenge themselves to grow and resist sin and selfishness, and they do not really make a place for God in their lives. It did not matter to the inhabitants of Chorozin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum that they had encountered Jesus; they were going to respond by not responding. Rather than an outright rejection of the Lord, sloth is passive-aggressive but it is just as much a rejection, and, as Jesus says, even worse than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, who did not have the same opportunities to change their ways, and worse than where Moses was after he had killed a man.
Spiritual sloth can take many forms in our day-to-day life. One way it manifests is in making excuses to put God off. “I’ll go to Mass next Sunday,” “I am too busy to spend time in prayer,” “I know these habits aren’t right but I enjoy them and am afraid to change” are examples of attitudes that are very normal and culturally accepted; they simultaneously acknowledge God and reject His call to holiness. As Christians, we need to be careful that we are not allowing ourselves to fall into patterns of “procrastinating” on our spiritual growth. In a sense, we all have layers of lukewarmness that we need to fight; the challenge is to not let our guard down, to keep seeking the Lord every day, and striving to live more fully the life of grace He has called us to.
Take some time today to examine your heart and your conscience, particularly if you feel that you have been “putting God off” in any way. Before falling into discouragement, though, remember how much the Lord loves you, and how He understands the reasons behind your weaknesses. He knows your fears, your brokenness and challenges and does not see you as someone who is merely too lazy to be holy. However, He does call you to bring all of those to Him so He can help you rise above them and follow Him with your whole heart. Place everything before Him today and allow His grace to work in you so that you may fully live the call to holiness that He has set before you.