Don't Be Sluggish

Matthew 13:10-17

Here’s a question for us today: What makes us sluggish at times and not able to hear God’s truth? What’s the difference between those who understand what God says in the scriptures and those that don’t, or what Jesus meant in his parables and those that don’t? That's what the disciples wanted to find out in today's Gospel reading. The answer lies in the prophecy from Isaiah that Jesus quoted: People's hearts are “gross”.

In the original Greek (the language in which Matthew wrote), the word "gross" meant thickening or fattening. Jesus was talking about what happens when we get filled up with what the world feeds us. Because some want to eat whatever makes them feel good, they gorge themselves from the world's all you can eat buffet (if you will), gulping down large portions of a let-me-make-up-my-own-rules kind of moral relativism and its “me centered” version of spirituality. On this diet, our hearts get "sluggish" and we miss the truth even when it's handed to us on a silver serving platter.

The Isaiah quote goes on to say, “They will hardly hear with their ears. They have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and be converted.”


I was listening to one of Bishop Barron’s talks the other day, and he was quoting a philosopher by the name of Charles Taylor. Taylor described a state of existence which seems aligned with Isaiah’s description.  He called it being in the state of “the buffered self”. Those residing in “the buffered self” have been shielded from our transcendent God (transcendent meaning God is independent of the material universe). They may give lip service to God, but they live in a materialistic world – all that matters is matter and that which science can explain.


Many of our youth live in the buffered self because they’ve been blind-folded by the culture before even being exposed to our transcendent God. But there are those of us who are older, who’ve seen God’s hand at work in our lives, yet we can be sluggish just the same.


What makes a good Christian become sluggish? Why do any of us get lazy about discovering and relinquishing the untruths that we are beholden to? Usually, it's because of fear. Hebrews says, “It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We're afraid we won't like what we'll hear from God, as if he’ll tell us something that will harm us!

The example that comes to mind is of a Christian woman who had an abortion many years ago who may have learned to bury the nagging thought that her fetus was a real child. She may try to convince herself that she is at peace with it, but that may be nothing more than denial.
We’ve all heard the stories of how deeply those who’ve chosen abortion have suffered.


Any category of sin that we stubbornly rationalize away as being “not that bad” can make us sluggish, and keep us in the state of the “buffered self”.

It's only by focusing on the reality of God's unending, unconditional love for us, that we can risk hearing what our fears are telling us to ignore. Fear tells us that God doesn’t care for us to the extent that we need him to. Fear tells us that what we did wrong is bigger somehow than God's mercy.

Our faith lives should never plateau.  We should never settle or concede out of sluggishness.  We should never be convinced that we know enough about our God, or that we’re too old to know more.


CS Lewis said that joy comes through an aching sense of a longing for the ultimate truth.  The Christian is always compelled to search for the next great truth as a way to find ultimate fulfillment. It’s just like a good scientist who knows that when he finds the answer to a question, there’s another one in behind it waiting to be addressed. We were built with minds that are always looking for, as Bishop Barron called it, “the beatific vision” or the vision of God.  So let us not keep a buffer around our minds, keeping God’s ultimate truths from fully penetrating us.


When we remember that God wants to make good come out of everything, we can dare to face the truths that we fear the most.

So, hopefully we’re not feeling a little sluggish or tired today- especially with the Flea Market and Festival ahead of us – we can’t afford to be tired. But if we are feeling a little sluggish and tired lately, let us pray that we can make today a new beginning. Let’s poke some holes in the bubbles that we live in so that we can breathe more easily. Let’s read a book or engage someone in conversation that will challenge us to burst through our subjective existence and seek the truth wherever it will take us. 


Let’s remember how much God loves us and acknowledge that he’s the only net we need.  God, help us surrender to you and your truth. It’s only in that truth will we find a renewed sense of energy, and a new sense of fulfillment and joy.  Amen!


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