So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth – Revelations 3:16
I have heard it said often that the requirements of our faith are demanding, even at times unreasonable. I believe a lot of people can get hung up on this idea of impossibility and as a result give up striving for perfection. I will agree with these individuals on one point – it is impossible; however, it is not impossible for God as we read in scripture:
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible – Matthew 19:25-26
In order to be saved, it is impossible by our own, isolated efforts. It is only possible through God. I think many individuals can agree with this intellectually but fail to connect it personally with their own struggles. All grace, such as being able to pray or to even say Jesus is Lord comes from God. St. Paul reaffirms this in scripture:
Therefore, I tell you that nobody speaking by the spirit of God says, “Jesus be accursed.” And no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12:3
Grace enables us to do this. On our part, which is the limit of our involvement, we can exercise our free will to either act on this grace or not act. Each individual will respond differently to the graces given to them by God. This really took me sometime to understand and to be honest, was a great relief when I understood it. I appreciate that the vastness between God and man is infinite, and by no part of my own am I able to cross this vastness to come to Him. He must extend a bridge from Him to us and I must choose to cross it. The bridge that connects God and man is Jesus Christ, as described by St. Catherine of Siena:
“Wherefore I have told you that I have made a Bridge of My Word, of My only begotten Son, and this is the truth. I wish that you, My children, should know that the road was broken by the sin and disobedience of Adam, in such a way, that no one could arrive at Eternal Life…And so, wishing to remedy your great evils, I have given you the Bridge of My Son, in order that, passing across the flood, you may not be drowned, which flood is the tempestuous sea of this dark life – The Dialogue by St. Catherine of Siena
To me this a great relief, not a burden. The Lord draws all men to Himself, and after the fall we are only able to come to Him by the Bridge, which is our Lord Jesus Christ. Even with this defined and explained to us why do so many, including many Catholics who are given the grace to come to the Lord, not responding to His call in this life and actively pursuing perfection now which has been made achievable only by His grace?
There are two primary causes for this. The first being a blatant rejection of the free grace that He gives to all mankind in order that all may be saved. The second is a lack of response due to lukewarmness. The remaining focus of this discussion will be on lukewarmness and the dangers associated with it that many souls are not aware of.
So what is lukewarmness? Lukewarmness can be defined as one who does not ardently commit to overcoming his or her faults in order to pursue sanctification due to a chronic weariness or sadness in the soul. The sin that associates with lukewarmness is spiritual sloth or acedia:
When idleness affects the accomplishment of the religious duties necessary to sanctification, it is called acedia.(3) It is an evil sadness: opposed to spiritual joy, which is the fruit of generosity in the love of God. Acedia is a disgust for spiritual things, a disgust which leads one to perform them negligently, to shorten them, or to omit them under vain pretexts. It is the cause of tepidity – The Three Ages of the Interior Life by by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
As defined above, spiritual sloth is a very serious disease of the soul and what makes it worse is that many souls are not even aware that they are consumed by it. Once lukewarmness takes root and is untreated for many years or decades, one’s heart may becomes hardened to the movements of grace and it may become near impossible to overcome this condition. It may be assumed that just because one does no great evil (or good) and that one fulfills their Sunday obligation that their salvation is assured and no greater work is required. This is false. One is only saved by grace and one is only saved by grace if one is properly disposed to it. It is the difference between going to mass because we have to vs because we want to.
So why do we need to treat this condition? If I am not doing any mortal sin and still going to mass, why do I need to go further than this? Let us look to St. John of the Cross for input:
Everyone knows that not to go forward on this road is to turn back, and not to gain ground is to lose. This is what our Lord wanted to teach when he said: The one who is not with me is against me, and the one who does not gather with me scatters – The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. john of the Cross
As the great saint states, to not be progressing to God is to be regressing from Him. From what the saints and scripture tell us, we can then sum up souls into three categories:
- A soul that actively pursues the Lord and seeks to be united to Him at all costs
- A soul that does not pursue the Lord or His kingdom due to lukewarmness
- A soul that actively rejects the Lord and chooses to go against Him
I am of the firm belief that those souls that are defined either as 2 or 3 will not be saved. This is a tough claim but is reaffirmed in scripture. It may be obviously for number 3, but the passage quoted from Revelations reaffirms the same outcome for the lukewarm, which states that the Lord will spit out all that are lukewarm. I do not think there is much beating around the bush with such language. Either you are actively pursuing the Lord or you are not. There is no acceptable middle ground where one hangs out in some space where they do nothing and expect salvation. For those souls that are defined as number 1, this does not mean that all that actively pursue Him in this life will reach the level of sanctity that many in the souls have reached and go straight to heaven but nevertheless they will be able to come to Him after time in purgatory.
I want to conclude with the remedy for spiritual sloth as proposed by saints and reaffirmed by this author:
…experience proves that a person triumphs over the temptation to spiritual sloth, not by fleeing from it, but by resisting it. On this subject St. Thomas observes: “Sin is ever to be shunned, but the assaults of sin should be overcome, sometimes by flight, sometimes by resistance; by flight, when a continued thought increases the incentive to sin, as in lust; . . . by resistance, when perseverance in the thought diminishes the incentive to sin, which incentive arises from some trivial consideration. This is the case with sloth, because the more we think about spiritual goods, the more pleasing they become to us, and forthwith sloth dies away” – The Three Ages of the Interior Life by by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
Some sins like lust require flight but with spiritual sloth it requires a fight. This is a fight and one that you will have to actively pursue daily in order to avoid falling into lukewarmness. If you are noticing that your spiritual exercises are weakening, that you are falling back into sin and spiritual sloth, you have succumbed to lukewarmness. What are some practical solutions? I would say that once you have fallen into spiritual sloth make an ardent desire to receive confession as soon as possible. It will restore you back to a state of fervor to enable you to continue the fight. Also, make use of a routine and commit with all your will to stand by it. If you lack the will, do seek out a spiritual director or some holy friend that can hold you accountable.
Christ is king!