February 28, 2007: First Wednesday in Lent


The intercessionary prayers in Morning Prayer for this day has the leader of the prayer pleading to God:

“Free us from all negligence and sloth,”

and the rest of us responding:

“- and give us joy in your gifts of grace.”

It’s easy to think there’s just a bit of a disconnect between the initial prayer and the response. If we are to be freed from negligence and sloth, shouldn’t that lead to a response such as:

“- and give us the energy to work hard in your Name.”

There is a word problem here and one worth contemplation. Modern dictionaries define ‘sloth’ in terms of laziness or indolence, but that has not always been the case. In the Middle Ages and for some centuries afterwards, ‘sloth’ was not laziness so much as it was a lack of joy in God’s Creation. It was a darkness of spirit that could certainly lead to laziness in some, but that laziness is a symptom and not the moral disease.

It makes some terrible sense that the laziness that can result from sloth, a lack of joy in God’s Creation, should strike modern human beings as being the true vice. We are a people who live hectic lives, in our work and our recreation and our worship. We rush about and think that movement is a sign of accomplishment.

In confusing sloth with laziness, we Christians do ourselves a disservice. God’s life, the one we aim to share on the other side of the grave, is a life of dynamic joy and love, not a life of hectic activity.

We should maybe follow that old advice and stop to smell the roses. We should also stop to thank God for those roses and to maybe pick one to spread the joy to someone else. We should slow down sometimes and say our prayers so that we hear each of our words distinctly. We should do what we can to nurture the feelings of joy which come to us every so often when we’re praying or helping a neighbor or giving up something for the sake of reducing what lies between us and God.

We need to do our duty to God and neighbor but we need to nurture those feelings of joy which sometimes come when we do our duties. Life is supposed to be joyful. It’s inappropriate sadness and not laziness as such which can keep us from a truer communion with God and with our neighbor.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Moral Formation, Peace of Christ, Religion

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