In our last two articles we reflected on the nature of distraction and how Satan uses that to keep us from letting Christ into our lives, and how a merely emotional connection to faith will cause that faith to die.
Now we are looking at the seed that falls among the thorns. As a young child, I didn’t see much of a difference between these seeds and the ones that fell on rocks. They both failed to produce fruit, so what was the point of talking about rocks and thorns?
It wasn’t until I was older that I understood what Jesus was getting at. With the rocks, the seed doesn’t take root and so dies. These are people who at first are on fire, but then their faith dies and they leave the Church. That is a challenge, mostly, for the young.
But the lesson of the thorns challenges those who are older. Here the seed does grow and mature. But the thorns choke it so it produces no fruit.
Christ said that the thorns represent the worries of this life and worldliness. They grow up around the faith but constrain it. As a result, it can never be life-giving.
Unlike the ones that fall on rocks, these Christians remain in the Church but are lifeless. They are “faith zombies,” the truly walking dead.
Fr. Larry Richards once described them as the “Frozen Chosen.” At Mass he could see that while many attended, they never let the reality of what was happening on the altar penetrate their hearts. They were too caught up away from God and too caught up in the world. It was as Jesus said to the Pharisees that they were whitewashed tombs: having the appearance of faith on the outside, but inside faith was dead.
What is the worldly desire that chokes us?
It really could be any vice. Christ focuses on greed. The problem with greed is that it makes us look at this world as the end all be all. It tells you not to take the leap into God’s arms.
In a class I taught, we discussed several ways that you have to put your faith in God, like how the martyrs did in the first century. They trusted that God would take care of them in the afterlife.
But then we discussed tithing, which is giving 10% of your income to charity. I was shocked at how much blowback there was.
“But what if I need that money?” was the question most often asked.
“Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead and has the power to give you new life?” I responded.
“Then don’t you believe He will take care of you financially?”
“But,” the student responded, “It’s MY money! I need it!”
It amazes me how much we say we trust God until it affects our pocket book. I am no different. Generosity is not something that comes naturally to me. I have to fight that concupiscent desire to hold onto “my” things.
But real faith requires a full investment. This includes our money.
Love of money shows great insecurity of faith. We look to money like a lifeboat, a safety net. I say I believe God, but just in case…
With God there is no “just in case.” You follow or you don’t.
Greed is not the only worldly vice. In the modern world, lust has saturated so much of society. It is difficult to use any of our electronic devices without coming across something that is meant to evoke that primal desire. It is not the worst of all the sins, but it is intense and pervasive.
And it chokes the spirit. I remember hearing a great Christian speaker talking about his struggles with pornography and he said how it “sapped all of his spiritual strength.” He spent so much time and prayer and guilt and shame on this that he could not go on to the higher spiritual things. He still had his faith, but is was being stifled.
One of the banes of age is that it we begin to lose our ability to change. We start entering a detente with life. “I am who I am and the world is the way it is.” We begin to accept our little vices and excuse them, almost as if it they come as a privilege with age. “Well, I don’t give to charity enough, but that’s just the way I’ve always done it.”
This is poisonous to our faith life and this is the work of the thorns.
That is what the thorns do. They encourage us to live with a watered-down, zombie-faith.
What are we to do?
St. Francis of Assisi, years after he had already renewed much of Europe told his brothers to treat all of their accomplishments so far as nothing. He understood that we can never rest on our laurels. We must always strive for renewal. I had a teacher once say to me that the spiritual life is like swimming upstream: to not advance is to fall behind.
We must always seek to have our faith renewed. This requires us to be open not only to new things but to things we have encountered in the past, those original graces that first brought us to the Lord.
I’ve written before that I came to Christ from a Teens Encounter Christ retreat. I know that I constantly need to come back to that community when my spiritual batteries need recharged. When that happens, I take my eyes off of the lures of this world and look to the reality of world to come.
When that happens, I can more easily prioritize my spiritual and moral life and I can shake off the suffocating thorns.
Copyright 2014, W.L. Grayson