Here we are at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and abstinence, asking for God to purge all demonic influences from our lives and lives of the Church. If we have been faithful to the program of prayer and fasting/abstinence, we should have begun a new way of life where we can incorporate such things into our daily routines. Forty days is hardly sufficient to cast all diabolic activity from our lives, our society, and within our Church. What we hope to do is start new and better habits.
Fr. Heilman wrote a wonderful column on acedia, the slothfulness we often display to spiritual matters. Certainly, we will experience temptation to backtrack on our renewed spiritual vigor. As I tell my parishioners at the beginning of Lent, "the point of the next 40 days isn't to make yourself uncomfortable and miserable for the sake of making yourself uncomfortable and miserable." Instead, we have committed ourselves to detachment from the diabolical, much the same way an excellent athlete commits to a workout regimen, or the way a scholar commits to their academics. The goal is to become stronger, and through prayer and fasting, holier.
However, sloth can be a sneaky demonic presence. It is an unwillingness to exert effort or to work. Sloth sees comfort as an end goal, so it leads us to steal time and energy from our jobs, families, and faith in the interest of self. It can lead us to procrastination and half-heartedly attending to the duties that others count on us doing.
The failure to challenge oneself, or to completely abandon one's responsibilities, has spiritual effects that I often liken to its physical and intellectual counterparts.
For example, if we are slothful on the physical front, it leads to poor health, loss of muscle mass, and obesity. The body must be taken care of.
It must be correctly fed and exercised to stay strong and healthy.
Sloth in the physical realm can have a grave cost. If we are slothful in the intellectual realm, not only do we not grow smarter, but we also lose knowledge that we had prior gained. This can have devastating consequences on a person who is in school (ex. grades) or in the workplace.
Sloth eats away at any strength or success that might be gained in the physical or intellectual realms. As remarked in the column of acedia, sloth in the spiritual realm leads to a denigration of the spiritual life and breaks down, and distances us in, our relationship with God.
Sloth is ultimately another form of selfishness.
To fight this deadly sin, we must look to the cardinal virtue of justice. Justice helps us to assume our responsibilities and to give to others what is rightfully due. Justice leads us away from a slavish devotion to comfort and provokes us to use our God-given abilities and talents for a greater good.
It encourages us to treat those tools God has blessed us with (body, mind, and soul) in such a way as to be able to fulfill our purpose. It helps us take care of all aspects of ourselves. Justice helps us be wise and steadfast stewards of God's gifts in our lives, and to be diligent in the duties and relationships we are called to live in.
The purpose of our exercise in prayer, fasting, and abstinence has been to detach ourselves from worldly comfort, looking to another and higher goal.
At the end of these 40 days, let us remember the motto of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frasatti, "verso l'alto" (to the heights), and let the good habits we have engaged in lead us to a greater holiness and life in Christ.
Definitition of Sloth according to Merriam-Webster:
": spiritual apathy and inactivitythe deadly sin of sloth"