Recently I have been re-reading the Gospel of Luke and have been realizing a sobering and frightening reality creeping into my life. The Gospels are the words of joy and hope for everyone in all places in all times. But specific passages have brought me to my knees as of late and have made me realize that I have been living an immature spirituality for most of my life. I am beginning to realize that I have been on a path that has been leading me away from the Lord and away from the Kingdom of God. This is something I believed might happen to others but never happen to myself.
As a Catholic Christian I am blessed to have a parish nearby and receive the sacrament of the Eucharist each Sunday (granted the soul is in a state of grace). I am sure to never miss a weekend Mass. I studied theology in college and like to think I am more ‘aware’ of the Scriptures and have lived a humble and good life. I have always considered myself a good Christian who has received the word with joy. But recently I’ve realized more and more that I have fallen victim to the false belief that others would lose their faith before I ever would.
In all honesty, I have simmered. I have become humdrum in the Christian life and have fallen the way of the world. I have become concerned with money and my own ways, constantly online seeking entertainment, watching the latest Netflix shows and consistently distracted anytime I settle down to prayer. I watch television relishing dreams of fame and fortune and obsess over the fact that I am single and far from beginning the gift of family. In short, I believe I am the seed that has fallen among the thorns and who has had the word choked out of me.
Our Lord tells us, “Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it…As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit” (Luke 8:7, 14). It is difficult to admit this sort of defeat. Christ presents the example of one who fails to produce mature fruit as a person who undergoes a slow loss. The individual does not lose the word right away, but allows it to be slowly sapped out of them as they go along, consistently conflicted over which master to serve and too drawn to the temporalities of life. I never believed this could happen to me or that it would be me, but I have come to realize that I am being choked by thorns and have lost so much of the way.
Like never before I believe there is a cultural war being raged against the youth. They are being presented with a false ideal of vain messages and entertainment that seeks to distract them at every turn. How can we persevere in the spiritual life if we are surrounded by black mirrors (deliberate reference)? How can we leave everything for the Gospel when we are taught to measure our worth by our rate of consumption and production from the earliest of ages? Not only the young but truly everyone is being subjected to the thorns of distraction and vain thinking. And it is only too easy to fall victim to it without realizing it. I write these things because this has happened to me and is most likely true to be happening to others.
The result of being choked of the joy of Christ has lead to a great depression and loneliness. I have attempted to escape the struggles of the soul and the difficulties of living a Christian life with the distractions of the world, its entertainment and its social media. It has become all too easy to do and has caused me to fall victim to this slow spiritual death.
The reality of faith is that it is a gift. It is a theological virtue given by God that must be nurtured and cared for, else it can be lost and even taken away (Luke 8:18, Matthew 13:12). Our Lord often speaks of the tree being cut down (Matthew 7:19, Luke 13:7, John 15:6). If we fail to do well with our time and allow the world to choke us of the word, the kingdom can be taken away from us. This scares me greatly. I literally feel it happening in my life. Anyone who feels similarly should reflect on what might be causing this same pain in their own lives. Perhaps it is the luxuries of the world or perhaps it is something entirely different.
I am certain that the more we give in to the repetitive habits of the false Gospel that pervades so much of modern culture, the spiritual life is hundreds of times more difficult to find again. Our phones can become addictions, as can the internet and everything that goes with it. These things have slowly taken over my life and now have become ever-present. I binge-watch new Netflix shows, spend hours when not working on YouTube, and feel the compulsion to check the news every half hour. All of this time could be spent with other people, in service or in prayer. But now it feels as though I can’t even pray.
To emphasize his point, our Lord tells us, “whoever has ears ought to hear” (Luke 8:8). This statement and all that follows reveals the importance of not falling victim to the thorns and realizing what it is our Lord continues to call us toward: a new life free from the false distractions of the world. We can still hear and act on the message. If our spiritual life and our relationship with God is becoming stagnant and choked, we can work to counter the actions that have lead us there. There is still time and there is still hope. This requires humility and acceptance, prayer and reflection. If there wasn’t still time for the soul, the Gospel would have little to say to us. In a way, these realizations have come to spark a hope and desire for a new relationship with God. But I know it must be worked for. It takes a strong will and a desire to replace distraction with action.
These thorns have been painful going in and will be equally as painful going out, but I believe the soul will heal and feel well again once they have been removed.