Sloth and diligence
The answers to the questions are prepared by the theologian Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno, Central Assistant of the Apostolic Movement.
What is sloth? When we were studying, the image that was presented us of sloth, was that of a frog in the pond, that stays in putrid water; and it stays well there, it is not touched and it has no reactions: croaks and spends the day. And for her life ends there. It does not become flustered, it has no aspirations, no feelings and no reactions. What is then sloth? It is full passivity with regard to the good to be done. It is as if we were spiritually dead. We are numb. If you read the Gospel, you will find those words of Christ that say like this: “You are like those children in the street, that say to passersby:” We played a lament and you did not cry, we played the flute and you did not dance»”. You do not feel involved in anything. There is this passivity that consumes you. Spiritual passivity is bad, because man is made of heart, feelings and fire, inside. Here is it, sloth is an extinguished fire that will not be rekindled anymore. It is like that wood consumed a little by the fire; then the fire is put out, it fumigates for a little and then that is it. It gives no more signs of life. When you fall into this sin of sloth, all duties, all obligations, whatever is responsibility is postponed until tomorrow: we do it another day. Today we live like this, because we live “well.”
Industriousness is the opposite. Industriousness tells us that we have a heart inside, we have feelings, we have a will and a responsibility. We want to change history. We want to change something in our world. Then one gets committed, makes all kinds of efforts. He puts his good will, his heart, his intelligence and his strength; puts all of himself because he knows that a new world can arise from this busyness. We can do something good for ourselves and for others, we can change history.
What does Christ want from us? He does not want us to be passive, dead and without passions. We must have strong passions. If you know the examination of conscience, in the Apocalypse, that the Holy Spirit does to one of the Churches in Asia Minor: since you are neither hot nor cold I will vomit you out of my mouth, I do not need you. Here is sloth. If the person is cold it can be cured. However, man in himself is called to do something holy, he is called by vocation to imitate God, because we are in his image. Now imitating God means being operative, because God is operative, he has no idleness, no downtime. The whole life of God is fullness of love.
Q. Are there various types of sloth?
A. The issue is not whether there are various types of sloth. Sloth is manifested in many ways. For example it manifests itself in having no love for studying, so that you study because you are forced, obliged, but you do not care anything about the subjects. You have no reaction either in good or in evil. That is, your heart is not in what you are doing and you do not do what you need to do, because your heart is not there. While we must always put our heart in what we do. Now, putting the heart means putting passion, putting fire and putting ardour. Who is God? He is a consuming fire, a fire that gets angry; because he is not passivity, he is life, and life has reactions. When you have no reactions it means that you are without this passion that moves you and we must have this great passion in our hearts. Without passion life is worthless, it is wasted. When we were small, we created in us ideals: the ideal of the great missionary, the ideal of the great saint, the ideal to imitate this or that other great character, the ideal of doing that or that other thing. Then one felt animated, he felt spurred, you felt a passion for something in your heart. Today, passions are gone. Except the ones towards evil. But toward the good passions it is as if they no longer existed. For example you have to do some nice studying, but without passion, how do you manage to study? Studying must train you, it must upset you inside, it must re-create new in your knowledge, mind, heart, spirit, feelings and thoughts. How do you manage if you do not have this passion? If I had not the passion when I am about to speak to you, I would stay here like a dead man. Sloth is spiritual death, you live as if you were not living. We cannot live a life like this. This is not appropriate to us because being we in the image of God we are called to be perennial creators of history. I have to create something today, I must think something today, I have to do something today, because God interpellates me for you. Therefore, sloth manifests itself in a thousand ways.
Q. Is industriousness built on other qualities and virtues? And how can we become industrious?
A. Industriousness needs some very simple things. It needs knowledge: you must know what you are called to; you need science, you need intelligence and you need mental development. Why do you need the mind to be developed. You need to grow in wisdom, grace and holiness. If you do not develop the mind even being able to do it, how can you be industrious in things? You miss the tool to be industrious. If I go to the countryside to work the earth and I do not even know how to handle the hoe, I can put all the diligence I want, but the earth will always remain uncultivated. I miss the science, I miss the art, I miss the virtue that I have to learn. Today one makes a mistake because he thinks that without science, without knowledge, without the development of intelligence when it is time, after we can do things well. But things cannot done right, after, because the remote preparation is lacking, I am missing the tool that must help me at that particular moment. If I come here to provide you with an entertainment, and you ask me the question: I can also have studied today, but if I do not have the past science, when I speak to you, I can tell you a notion, but how do I manage to give you the fullness of truth? I miss the content, I do not have it. The error that it is done today, especially in youth, is that they do not think that whatever is done today it is needed for tomorrow. For is it today that you build yourself so that tomorrow you can work well, may work well, you can carry out your ministry well. That’s why the remote preparation must be done well. But you can think: you do not need this! You will need it tomorrow! Because it develops the mind, it opens up your intelligence, it puts your heart in movement, it makes you think, it makes you reflect, it makes you reason, it makes you discern and it makes you understand. The remote study prepares your mind and your heart to be able to do the things you need to do today. That is why to industriousness we must add all those virtues which enable it to walk well, because you cannot walk without balance. The virtues give strength to industriousness. For example, the ability to sacrifice, the habit of renunciation and mortification; is needed for this, to make good use of your body when you are asked a little more effort. It is like the athlete. How long does a race last? A race of hundred yards lasts nine seconds, but to get to those nine seconds how much work is there behind? Many times you have, years and years of exercise, gymnastics, preparation and study. We sometimes lack this remote preparation, and lacking this substrate, when we must do the hundred meters, we make them in nine hours rather than nine seconds, because we did not prepare ourselves well.
Q. In the commentary on the Gospel, about the parable of the talents, I read that Paradise is not a fruit, but a gift of grace. What is the relationship between putting our talents in practice and eternity?
A. Paradise is not just a fruit. It is a gift, however, conditioned. The whole gospel is conditioned: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure of heart, they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God. See: there is the condition. You want to be helped? Help. You produce a fruit, the Lord adds his good to this fruit. If you do not put your work, God does not put his. You want the Lord to give you intelligence, wisdom; then study! Studying is the instrument through which the Lord gives you intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, doctrine and science. You want the earth to bear its fruit? You have to work. Do you want, tomorrow, to produce good fruit through your ministry and your mission? You have to prepare yourself! If you do not prepare yourself you cannot produce fruit! Everything in our life is conditioned, to a small sacrifice that we have to do. Sacrifice is essential in our lives! If you want to produce you have to sacrifice yourself. You want to do a good work? You have to give something up! And then you can do a good work, but if you do not give up, you will never do a good work. Paradise has to do with the same logic: it is a gift of God for you can never earn paradise, with no work! But the Lord gives it to you if you carry out a good work: I was sick and you visited me; I was naked and you clothed me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. You helped me, you served me, and I serve you. This reasoning is lost today and at all levels. If we remove the part that is up to us, the part that is up to God is not there. What does God put his wisdom on, if you do not put your good will in studying? The Lord does not give you infused knowledge. You must produce that one. And so it is for paradise. The Lord gives paradise if you put your talent to good use for loving. Chapter 25 of Matthew is the chapter on the work of man. You want to enter into the banquet hall? Bring the lamp with the oil; but you have to go buy the oil, otherwise you cannot enter into the banquet hall. And you stay out. You receive ten talents, five talents or one talent. Do you want to enter into the joy of the master? Put them to good use! You put them to good use and you enter into the joy of your master. Do you want to go to paradise? Do works of charity, both corporal and spiritual! Love, and the Lord will welcome you into his kingdom. That is why, paradise is a conditioned gift. But it is a gift, because none of our works can merit us paradise. Because paradise is an eternity, and all that you do is limited in time. And time cannot produce eternity, but your good work, ensures that the Lord gives it to you as an eternal gift. And therefore it is worthwhile to be good. It is worthwhile so the Lord puts his grace, his goodness, his mercy and his peace. He puts everything!
Q. Returning to sloth, can this entail the possibility of not perceiving the personal gifts and talents given by Providence?
A. Sloth is spiritual death. A dead man cannot resurrect himself alone. Every dead needs to be risen. Then we have those who can resurrect us. For example, a female friend, a male friend, can do this great work of resurrection. I will give you another example. What is the Apostolic Movement? What is its use? Have you ever thought of it? The Lord saw this slothful world, insensitive to the truth, insensitive to the grace, insensitive to justice, insensitive to love, and he called us, for what? Awaken this world! What did Christ come to do? To awaken this world! What did John the Baptist do? He awoke this world! The Inspirer: what does she do every Monday? She awakens us, dead. She awakens us. Then, after, we die once again, but at least for half a day we are awaken. Let us understand that we must do something, that we are not so well spiritually. However, she awakens us. But if every of us became a person that awakens his friends, his acquaintances, those he meets, those he works with; and many times, it would take a single word and the other person could awaken. On the other hand, when Jesus met the dead, he used to say one word: “Lazarus, come out!” He did not make such a big, long speech. And that one came out. Or: “I say to you young man rise,” and that one rose. Or, “Your sin is forgiven you! Go and sin no more.” Jesus said a few words, but they were words of Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit operated resurrection. What does it cost to us to say a word to a friend? To waken him, to rise him, to put him in a state of awareness: “son see that what you are doing is not a holy thing, it is not a nice thing; you are ruining your life, wake up.” What is resurrection? Waking up from death. Wake up son. What does St. Paul say: “It is time to wake from sleep.” Even at the time of St Paul there was sloth. So much so that he in his letter to the Romans is a little heavy: “Wake up from sleep, wake up, the day has by now appeared, do not remain sleeping.” Here is sloth. The sun rises and you are in bed. Instead, we must get up, because we have to precede the sun rising.
Q. Returning to talents: what does growth in a talent consist of?
A. The talent must be put to good use. For example, you have the talent of science. If you put it to good use, with your science you can discover a principle that can save humanity. If the Lord has disposed that the salvation of humanity passes through you, what must you do? You must do this, because if you develop your science you find a principle that saves all of humanity. I give you an example. Why have all major illnesses been eradicated? Because there have been people who have been active and have developed their talents. They believed and they found. Many times with a little invention you give humanity a new existence. Ecclesiastes says that many times we do these things out of envy. Out of envy for the other person we try to be superior by inventing. We Christians, should do it for love. But do not do it for love. Jesus said that the children of darkness are not slothful for their things. While we, who are the children of light, are sometimes sleeping. And does this seem fair to you? It is not fair! If I know that one of you has nice qualities, I feel sorry if I see that these qualities are kept secret, they are hidden away and not put to use. If one has a fine mind why not put it to good use? This is not a nice thing. That truth that one carries within could turn humanity upside down. It is possible that we Christians are so indifferent? We cannot be. Indifference does not belong to the Christian. Commitment belongs to the Christian. When the Lord gives a commandment to the children of Israel, that is how the commandment sounds in itself: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all the feelings, with all your strength”; however, there is also the mind. That is, as you, for yourself, look for the most beautiful things, why do we for the Lord live in a mortifying repetition of things? For yourself you look for the most beautiful in order to live it. For the Lord, this mind stops, gets to a halt and goes no further. Do we only for the Lord have no more intelligence to think of good things? We must also think of beautiful things for the Lord. For the Movement we have to think of good things. To sin we have the intelligence, we exploit it, but when it comes to doing the good intelligence stops. Do you think that is right? This is not a right thing. We need to develop intelligence, wisdom and knowledge to serve the Lord well and to love him. Every day, I ask the Lord for something new, because I know that I have to put intelligence in doing things concerning him. And this intelligence must be set. Is it possible that when we get to God we get stuck; it is as if the mind eclipsed and died. Then when we get out of what concerns God, we resume our faculties. This is wrong. We must believe very firmly that through our efforts the world can change.
Q. Can the non reading the sacred scriptures, the non forming and non questioning about matters of faith be considered sloth?
A. The sloth is this great insensitivity. You may even not read the Scriptures, because you could be like that royal official who read but did not understand. However, if you have at heart the knowledge of the things concerning God, and you have got it at heart with holiness and joy; even if you cannot read the scripture, however, can inform yourself, you can attend a conference, a debate, a catechesis, a dialogue and you can ask your friends: “listen, but how is your God?”; “talk to me about your God,” “I want to hear something nice; tell me something; who is your God ; talk to me about him, give him to me, because I want to know him.” It is possible that no one say to the other: “talk to me about your God!” Well, this is sloth. Sloth is this insensitivity before our God. I do not think that any of you cannot give a word about his God. Or say: “brother, now I will introduce you my God. You spoke to me of yours, until now; so now I introduce to you my God and you will see that he is different than yours. Then you choose. Do whatever you want. But let me talk to you about mine.” The comparison enriches. Do you know what is one of the poverties that we have today? It is the closure in our limit; we have our God and that is enough for us. You do not you put him in comparison. I wish some one came here to talk about his God; then I would speak to him of my own. Then, we would put him in comparison and we would choose. If his is best i choose his. But if mine is best you choose mine. We can put our God in comparison. Even as Apostolic Movement, among us. “But what God have you got? How do you think about him? How do you see him? How do you judge him? How do you imagine him? How do you paint him to yourself? Tell me of your God.” Try it among you and paint your God to another, to a brother. But then have the other picture his God, and you will discover wonderful things. You will find that there is so much to learn, to give and to grow. Here it is, this must be done. We must care about it. When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, as soon as she saw that the grave was violated with, because it was reversed – and she did not know of the resurrection of Christ – she went immediately to John and Peter, and informed them. They went to the tomb, they saw and they left. Mary Magdalene has remained and when she saw the gardener, who was there in the garden, she said: “But listen. can you talk to me of this Christ. Have you seen him? Do you know where he is? Did you take him? Tell me something, so that then I can go look for him. But you have to tell me something.” Then, Jesus called her: “Mary,” and she realized that it was Christ; she recognized him, and then happened whatever happened. Our dear Mary did not stop at the empty tomb. She had to seek Christ, she had this desire. The Scripture can also be an empty tomb where I do not understand anything, but the desire of Christ must remain, because it is the desire of Christ that quenches my thirst. This evening, try to talk about your Christ among you, and you would discover very beautiful things. Sometimes you are afraid of the other, you are afraid to talk about your faith, afraid of communicating each other something that is in your heart. This is not possible. We must get rid of this fear. Here is industriousness: in research, in desiring, in wanting and in making such determinations.
Q. In the parable of the talents it is written that “to him who has shall be given, and who has not shall be taken away even what he has.” I wanted to know what it means.
A. If you put your science, to science God adds science and to wisdom God adds wisdom. If you let the science that is in you and the wisdom that is in you die; you lose everything, for you know that a non developed gift dies inside you. It becomes asphyxiated, it is of no use. It is like a child in the womb of the mother that dies before coming to light. The conditions of its development are lacking. So we must understand this: If the Lord gave you the intelligence and you exploit it, you will see that this intelligence is as if it multiplied inside of you. It suffices a nothing, to have a glimpse of things for which you spent a year before. On the contrary, after you read, you catch a glimpse, and understand reality, you open yourself to the mystery, in an instant. Why? Because the fruit that you developed in you has increased its potential. If before you had a capacity for ten now you have it for a thousand. If instead you do not develop your knowledge, your intelligence, your wisdom, what happens? It happens that your mind atrophies and then you do not even see ordinary things, the most basic. You no longer understand them because you cannot grasp them. While you now, thanks to your knowledge, if you see a mathematical theorem, as soon as you look at him you already know the solution; if you do not develop this gift, within the year, what will you see? Only some signs that do not say anything to you anymore, because you have not developed your gift. The gift must be developed every day until the end. You must never stop. Every day you have to add something. Even the faith must be developed, charity must be developed and hope must be developed in order to grow.
Q. How to understand whether the feeling of “tiredness” that we sometimes feel is tied to a particular time in our lives or if it is laziness that is taking over?
A. Sloth being a vice it is a habit. What is a virtue? Habitus faciendae bonum. Virtue is the habit of doing the good. Habitus means naturally. By nature, you do the good. While the vice instead Habitus faciendae malum. That is, it is naturalness in doing evil. You do evil almost by nature, because that is your nature. You can have a moment of weariness; this moment of weariness can be overcome with a holy rest. When God created us, he created us good; and he gave us the day and the night. The day to be developed and the night to rest from the development and live our lives in a different way. We need that holy rest, necessary to be able to work the next day. After six days, the Lord added you the time of light so that you can rest, he added you the seventh day, twenty four hours, where you leave work alone because you need to rest. Now, if we do not do this, it is clear that fatigue overtakes you, exhaustion consumes you, because you cannot give your body that which is more than he can get. If you upload on a donkey fifty kilos, for a piece of equitable distance, the donkey takes them well. If you load one hundred kilos, the donkey begins to suffer; but if you put two hundred kilos it does not take them for you, because he cannot make it. Our body must be calibrated well. Every one of us must know that the body cannot tolerate all the stress we subject it to every day. The body does not tolerate disorder. If you make the night day and the day night you the body does not tolerate this. You must have that holy balance not to get to this state of fatigue, which can be the result not of a will, but of an unhealthy habit in living your relationship with your body, in asking what the body cannot give you.
Q. Do sins against the Holy Spirit have to do in some way, with sloth?
A. Sins against the Holy Spirit might be part of the area of sloth if they become sins against the Holy Spirit. I give you an example: paradise is also the result of your efforts. On the contrary, if you think, you believe and you convince yourself that paradise is due to you and you enter the presumption of being saved without any merit (“I can do what I want, so I save myself the same in the end”), it is this thought that ratifies sloth . It is also this thought that makes you get into the sin against the Holy Spirit, because you omit the tools of truth and grace to enter heaven. Or: fighting the known truth and challenging it; or having envy of the grace of others, or at the end, not repenting of the personal sins. These specific acts are sins against the Holy Spirit. The seven deadly sins are not in themselves sins against the Holy Spirit. They become sins against the Holy Spirit when you ratify them as a way to heaven. If you ratify envy to destroy the grace of God in others, then in this case it is a sin against the Holy Spirit.
Q. When we are slothful towards our brothers?
A. Sloth is not towards the brothers. The fruit of your sloth goes to the brothers. Sloth is a fact of your life: whether you feel or not passion, whether you feel or not responsibility, whether you feel or not desire. This is sloth. Sloth is insensitivity to the development of yourself. It is like a dry tree. The moment you become a dry tree you do not produce fruits of eternal life anymore, either for you or for others. Sloth ensures that you are fruitless, and so if you are fruitless you always carry out a work of omission toward your brothers. The Lord gave the gift to enrich others. I give you an example. The Lord gave me the gift of theology. I have to develop it. Developing it, I give you the fruits of my labor. You serve yourself of them, if you will, according to your needs. But I give you the fruit. If I do not develop this gift, the omission is mine, but I deprive you of what? Of the gift that could have given you life; and therefore, I am also responsible for your eternal life. One of my words could have saved you, and since I have not said that word, you do not save your life. For example, on Sunday, if I have to teach people, and on Saturday night I go get drunk, the day after, when I go to preach I say strange words. All the people I go to preach to, rather than feeding on truth they feed on foolishness, they do not get saved. But whose fault is it? Mine, because I failed to do things according to truth, according to justice: here is sloth. I did not have the sensitivity to prepare well, for a word can save the world. Sloth affects in the relationship with others because of the deprivation of a good that I must give them, but that I do not make it fruit. I am indifferent to this good which the Lord has given me. We are not only responsible for ourselves, we have the world in our hands. The Lord put the whole created universe in our hands and we must bring this world to perfection.
Q. Can too much industriousness become a sin?
A. Industriousness is a sin when you were lacking in justice. For example, if to dedicate yourself to some things that you love, you neglect justice. What is your justice? Your justice comes from the tasks, from the specific tasks that you must always perform. If you are a school teacher, due to justice you need to devote yourself to school. In all those hours that by contract you must stay in school, you need to do. I am a priest, I have a duty of justice toward you: listening to the confession; preaching, praying for you, celebrating the Holy Mass. Therefore, I have obligations of justice that I have to fulfill. Fulfilled these obligations I can devote myself to what I love most, which is the study of theology. But I cannot dedicate myself to the study of theology having precise obligations, taken in the Christian community. Because I am pastor and the pastor has specific obligations to be met with, which he cannot omit, because he loves other things. Otherwise, he must resign as a pastor and focus on other things. Then, you have to be balanced, just and holy. I can even sink in the study of Scripture twenty four hours a day. But I would be negligent in justice and would commit a sin before the Lord. I will give you another example: I have to instruct you. I am in charge of training in the Apostolic Movement. Well when you need me I have to be at your disposal. So that this hour that I have to give you, I have to give it out of justice, and if I do not give it, I commit a sin of omission. I am responsible before God. Equilibrium is crucial in our lives, because without equilibrium we get lost. We walk without obedience to the Lord. Justice is obedience to God. Never can I stop obeying the Lord, to serve God, because studying theology I would serve the Lord. On Monday, I have to stay among you. Why? Because I have to listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the Church. I have to listen to him because I must also interpret him, if it is necessary. And this is just. And so it is for all the other days when I have to stay among you. And I must do it. Then, in other times we do the rest. But justice must always be observed, because justice is also diligence and obedience to God. Being righteous is what the Lord wants. Then, the rest comes after. So that, it is necessary that we live this balance. And here, unfortunately, many times we sin. For not everything we love is holy in the eyes of the Lord.
Q. If there is a work that could be done, because it is considered in itself holy, but it is not the best for us, how do we manage to know what we must do?
A. The problem and the first discernment you need to do in your life is whether we are dealing with a work of justice or a work of charity. If it is a work of justice you must do it because you are obliged to do it, and you need to do in the best way. If it is a work of charity you have the discernment and the freedom to decide how and when to do it. This freedom is given you by God. You see, you choose, you pray and the Lord gives you the Holy discernment. In charity, you have the freedom to operate according to your heart, moved by the Holy Ghost. I give you an example. When Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took that pound of ointment and went to anoint the feet of Christ, Judas said that that was a wasted work. That ointment could have been sold and given to the poor; they would have earned three hundred coins. Instead, having thrown them to the ground it became a waste. Christ intervenes and says, “No! She did not waste it. She did a prophetic sign.” I am not able to judge charity, because charity is not judged by your heart; and the Holy Spirit is the one that makes you see it. I cannot judge your charity. But you pray the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will show you the right way to do the good. When you put yourself in prayer and ask the Lord to enlighten you, the Lord will enlighten you. So you will always know what is the more beautiful current work that you must or can do.
Q. How do you fall into sloth and how do you manage to get out of it once fallen? Can lost time be recovered?
A. The time lost is generally difficult to be recovered, especially if it is a lot. You lose one year, two years, three years and four years. How do you manage recover these four years wasted in sloth. However, you can redeem them, repenting and resuming the journey. But then, with a little sacrifice, you always recover something. Because there is also the blessing of God. And with the blessing of God you can also recover something. But four or five years are heavy. It is a time that weighs.
To exit from sloth we need to be awakened, we need to be helped, supported, we need friendly people who support us in this resurrection. Now, I told you before that many times we do not help each other among us. If you see a person sick of sloth, you do not cure him, do not let him come out of it. We must support one another. The only way to get out from sloth is supporting us. If there is not a brother that helps you, you will never get out of it. Man is necessary to man in our lives of truth, holiness, justice and peace. We are necessary to one another. Put this truth in your heart because from this truth a new way of relating with each other can be born. We all necessary to each other.
Directions for the preparation of the meeting given by Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno:
– Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthew
– Old Testament: The Prophet Haggai (indifference to the temple of the Lord).