+JMJ+ Welcome to part 16 of our current Catholic Book of the Month, Introduction to the Spiritual Life, by Brant Pitre. I’m on a Quest to become a saint, using this book as my guide. Come along with me and let’s become saints together! In this section we’ll look at the sixth capital sin, gluttony, and discover its remedy, temperance.
Gluttoy, a disordered or immoderate desire for the pleasure of food or drink, which are good things in themselves. It’s that disordered desire part that gets us into trouble. The more we crave, and the more we give into our cravings, the more we crave, and the more we crave, and it goes on and on until we lose all control. I can’t help but notice that the word raving is included in the word craving. That’s a bit of “Lee does etymology” there, a bit of wordplay, but I think it’s not insignificant.
The point is that we are to use what God has given us, not abuse it. God gave us good things to eat and drink, not to make them the objects of addiction. As Dr. Pitre says,
Gluttony, like other sins, is a self-inflicted wound, which physically abuses the body and spiritually injures the soul. As a rule, gluttony weakens the human heart, making it incapable of prayer and powerless in the face of temptations.Introduction to the Spiritual Life, by Brant Pitre, page 470, ebook.
And consider this sobering word from one of the greatest spiritual writers the Church has ever produced:
Unless we first tame the enemy dwelling within us, namely our gluttonous appetite, we have not even stood up to engage in the spiritual combat.Pope St. Gregory the Great, Morals in Job, 30.18.58.
Something I didn’t realize is that when Jesus is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, it’s the same charge made about the rebellious son in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, the one who is in danger of being stoned to death for partying excessively to the point of “losing control” and violating the commandment “to honor thy father and thy mother.”
Pretty serious stuff there. It’s also in Proverbs.
19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise: and guide thy mind in the way.
20 Be not in the feasts of great drinkers, nor in their revellings, who contribute flesh to eat [the RSV2CE has “gluttonous eaters of meat”]:
21 Because they that give themselves to drinking, and that club [the RSV2CE has ” the drunkard and the glutton”] together shall be consumed; and drowsiness shall be clothed with rags.Proverbs 23:19-21 Douay-Rheims Bible.
And contrary to what many Protestants say, Jesus nowhere warns against or forbids the use of alcohol. He does warn against the abuse of it, of drunkenness.
When Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-26, He uses the phrase “longed to be fed” which is the same phrase He used of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:16. And the Rich Man who was a glutton? He earned eternal separation from God and neighbor, and the “pain of flames that burn his tongue–the very part of his body that fed his gluttony and his failure to love his neighbor who was in need.” (See Intro, 400, ebook.)
Dr. Pitre does this time and again, brings out more of the meaning than I ever suspected was there. Don’t miss the many times he reveals the Hebrew behind the English translation, and the references, the context that we generally miss. I know I generally miss it.
The Remedy for Gluttony
The pagans reveled in drunkenness and worse. The early Christians, many of whom had only recently been pagans themselves, had to distance themselves from their former fellows and had to root out any of those tendencies that they had probably spent years developing. You probably already see where this is going. Yep, you got it. Fasting! Well, that’s part of it, anyway. Really, the remedy is temperance, the “strength to control our appetites for the pleasure of food and drink.” (See John Climacus, the Ladder of Divine Ascent, 14.)
But it’s not just that we have to control ourselves so that we don’t give into the temptation to eat and drink excessively. We also need to cultivate an appetite for spiritual food and drink. We have to empty our stomachs and “fill our hearts with truth, goodness, and beauty.” Read the Bible, the saints, the great spiritual writers. And these days these things are surely more accessible to more people than ever before because of the internet. I’m constantly amazed at what I can find online. And the more we read of the good stuff, the more we want to read, after we get enough of the worldly poison out of our system. That’s the way it’s been for me, at least. I hope it’s the same for you.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice [other versions have “righteousness”]: for they shall have their fill.Matthew 5:6.
There’s more in the book than I can cover in these posts. There’s a limit to how much I can share. You can get a copy of your own in hardcover or Kindle ebook format using the links at the end of this post. View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page and scroll down for this series of posts.
Next time, sloth and its remedy: diligence.
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I pray that you and I will stay holy and virtuous this Easter season, and may these spiritual helps aid us to become who the Lord intends us to be: SAINTS. God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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Notes and Links
- The current Catholic Book of the Month is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
- Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday catechesis on Pope St. Gregory the Great:
Images: 1) in the banner, same one the cover of the book uses: The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. 2) Codex Aureus Epternacensis (Golden Gospels), Illuminated Manuscript; Parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar Lazarus, Folio 78 recto, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. See the larger image. 3) The Virgin in Prayer, by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato. From the National Gallery, London, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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