The Sneakiest of the Seven Deadly Sins

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10;

At age 16, life was about rock ‘n roll.  If my own band was not performing on Saturday night, I was out in the audience, watching another band.

It would have never occurred to me to spend my Saturday nights at a Catholic conference or retreat.  True, no matter how late I was out, I’d never miss Sunday Mass.  But that’s not because it was the source and summit of my life.  It was because I didn’t want to go to hell!  Being roasted over an open fire for all eternity definitely did not appeal to me.  But neither did wasting my Saturday night in a Church event that was not strictly required by divine law.

Why is this? Because I craved fun, joy, adventure and fulfillment.  And Church was the last place I expected to find any of these things.  Heaven was described as “eternal rest.” Nothing could have sounded more boring.

But in the gospel of Matthew (22:1-14), the kingdom of God is not described in terms of an endless ceremony or angels sitting on clouds playing harps.  It is painted in the colors of a wedding feast – a boisterous, energizing celebration with delectable food, choice wine, dancing, laughter, and fellowship.  But not just any wedding feast.  This party will be fit for a king since the bridegroom is a prince.  Obviously, the royal Host will spare no expense and it will be truly a gala affair.

But when the King’s representatives issue personal invitations to this party of the century, there are few takers.  Perhaps part of it is the fault of the messengers.  Maybe their blank faces and monotone voices confirmed the worst suspicions of the invited guests – that anything put on by the King will be a crashing bore.

But where did this suspicion come from in the first place?  Isaiah speaks of a veil that covers all peoples, a web that is woven over all nations (Isaiah 25:6-10).  It is a web of deceit that has been woven not by a spider, but by the serpent that first deceived Eve.  It is an immense propaganda campaign that is subtly woven into the message of movies, TV shows, and print advertizing.  It shows up in teachers’ lesson plans and locker room chatter.

The message is simple – “do what God says and you’ll have no life.  His reign is at worst about oppression and at best endless boredom.  Either you reject him or, if you really have to believe in him, just don’t be a fanatic.  Give the obligatory ‘nod to God’ and go out and ‘get a life.’”

That’s why rock concerts and football games have sellout crowds but we often have to pull teeth to fill a church for a parish mission.  That’s why the king in the parable had a hard time filling his banquet hall.

Be honest.  Do you see the pursuit of the Kingdom as a joyful romp, or as a tiresome chore?  Do you just do the minimum, or do you grab for all the spiritual gusto you can out of your Christian life?  Do you make excuses that you’re too tired or too busy when opportunities arise to grow spiritually, or do you make the Kingdom top priority?

The Catholic tradition speaks of Seven Deadly Sins (or Capital Sins). One of the sneakiest and deadliest is often overlooked, which is exactly why it is sneaky and deadly.  It is called “sloth” or spiritual laziness.  The symptoms?  The sloth perceives the kingdom of God to be boring and so can find no energy to pursue it.  Everything else – work, kids’ soccer games, super-bowl parties, shopping – takes precedence so that the sloth never gets around to seeking God.

A wise monk once told me that the greatest sin of our sex-saturated, hyperactive culture was not lust but ironically that spiritual laziness called sloth.  I think he was on to something.


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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