Lukewarmness: A Barrier to Joy

(Please do not read only parts of this article; this would distort its hopeful message. This post does not deal explicitly with God’s love and mercy- like most of my other posts- yet it does provide incentive to overcome lukewarmness; and isn’t it a great act of mercy on God’s part when He convicts us of sin and complacency, which are the cause of our woes? Isn’t this necessary if we are to be freed from sin and misery? Like a good doctor, Our Lord warns us of dangers.)

Dear readers, this article will be of great profit to you if you heed its message.

Love of God and neighbour are the wings that lead us to Heaven. Lukewarmness, on the other hand, eventually extinguishes the fires of charity, “without which, no man is saved” (St. Robert Bellarmine). The purpose of this article is to expose the nature of lukewarmness, and to propose infallible means for overcoming this sad state of soul, which is surely the cause of much misery in the world. To confirm this point, we have the words of St. Pope Pius V: “All the evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics.” Do not be discouraged, however; united to Mary we will crush the head of Satan (Gen 3:15)!

One has only to look at the lives of the saints (such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Vincent Pallotti, and St. Padre Pio) to realise how different- how much better – the world would be if we all strived for great sanctity! Why is it that so few souls aspire to sanctity? Ignorance. Yes, there are other causes, but ignorance surely plays a large part. If everyone meditated on the following truths of the faith, for example, how differently would they live their lives: the nature of sin; God’s justice (which is loving and true); merit; eternity; Heaven; the fruits of close union with God etc. Fr. Paul O’Sullivan declared in his book on Confession that after speaking with many priests, they agreed that 90% of sin could be avoided with the right education! 90%! We cannot afford to settle for mediocrity. Let us show gratitude for all God has done- and continues to do- for us, by striving to do His Divine Will. Our Lord is most merciful and He generously rewards perseverance in humble service of God:

“… think with joy of the beautiful place My love has prepared for you in Paradise, and which you can go on embellishing every day…”

(Our Lord to Sr. Benigna Consolata).

Lukewarmness in the Bible

Our Lord warns us of lukewarmness, because He loves us, and wishes to do good to us.

“But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:16 (In other words, lukewarmness leads to grave sin, which expels sanctifying grace from our souls. Do not have an excessive fear of such sin, however. Be vigiliant, yes. But do not be anxious. “Do not be afraid! Jesus has given you the desire to be good. He will help you”. – St. Francis de Sales)

Lukewarmness: as described by Fr. Gerald Vann (‘The Divine Pity’, p. 104)

Fr. Vann compares lukewarmness to being “run down”. When we are “run down” we are weak and we “may catch anything”; we are vulnerable; we are sick. Our Lord stands patiently at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20), but rather than opening our hearts to His graces we become enmeshed in sin, which weakens our wills, darkens our consciences, and obscures our intellect; our indifference grows; we lose sight of the horror of sin; the desire to be holy quickly diminishes; the light of God is hidden by the darkness of our sins; our spiritual sickness continues to grow and eventually we will fall in to grave sin- something incomparably worse than any physical sickness.  In a state of lukewarmness, we show indifference to the advances of Almighty God, and instead of growing in love and holiness (which we are all called to) we grow in indifference, unhappiness, and self-love, thus depriving ourselves and many others of the grace of God. Nevertheless, God still desires our good. Even St. Teresa, the great mystic and Doctor of the Chuch, was lukewarm for quite some time.

Lukewarmness: As described by Jesus to St. Faustina

“… bring to Me the Souls who have become lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’”

“There are souls who thwart My efforts (1682). Souls without love or devotion, souls full of egoism and selfishness, proud and arrogant souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep themselves alive: My Heart cannot bear this. All the graces that I pour out upon them flow off them as off the face of a rock. (1702).” (The words of Our Lord to St. Faustina, further down the page, will put these words in context)

Lukewarmness: As described by St. John Vianney

“He will [make] so little change in his way of life, that it is easy to see that he is only fulfilling his duties from habit and routine… [He possesses] a love of God and of neighbour which is without warmth or pleasure [Remedy: Daily prayer and meditation on the Passion, which, according to St. Padre Pio, is what all true Christians do]…

His Confessions and his Communions… bear no fruit, which, far from making him more perfect and more pleasing to God, only make him more unworthy… [Remedy: Sufficient Preparation before Confession and Holy Communion. The priest is acting ‘in persona Christi’ (in the person of Christ). When we confess, we confess to Our Lord. The relative ease of Confession should not lead us to abuse this beautiful Sacrament, which dispenses the Precious Blood of Jesus that He shed for us in His Passion, and merited for us by His Passion! Confession is not a license to sin, but a remedy for sin! Remember how much suffering Our Lord underwent- through love- so that we might “Go, and now sin no more.” (John 8:11). When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we receive Our Lord! His Sacred Heart throbs within our bosom. What a tender embrace! and for we who have pierced Him countless times with our sins and indifference! What goodness!]

In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul… this lukewarm soul has no difficulty… in talking during the course of his prayers… [Begin every day with a morning prayer, offering to God everything we do that day, and thanking Him for His gifts. This has great merit. Through meditation and spiritual reading, listen to Our Lord. We must listen more than we speak. How many Christians, living in (objectively) serious sin, are not aware of this sad fact, simply because they do not listen to God.]

A lukewarm soul will go to Confession regularly… But what kind of Confessions are they? No preparation, no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether… [Alas, this is partly because so few know the immense, personal love of God. We have the responsibility of loving and consoling our suffering spouse, Jesus. Visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and there He will fill you with love in a very special way.]

[at Holy Mass] (Possibly) he will not give a single thought to the fact that he is about to participate in the greatest of all the gifts that God, all-powerful as He is, could give us…

Who can dare assure himself that he is neither a great sinner nor a tepid soul but that he is one of the elect? Alas, my brethren, how many seem to be good Christians in the eyes of the world who are really tepid souls in the eyes of God*, Who knows our inmost hearts… Let us ask God with all our hearts, if we are in this state, to give us the grace to get out of it, so that we may take the route that all the saints have taken and arrive at the happiness that they are enjoying. That is what I desire for you…”

*”The reason why the lukewarm run so great a risk of being lost is because tepidity conceals from the soul the immense evil which it causes.” – St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (Lukewarmness is not a static state: without repentance, it eventually leads to coldness, hatred -which is what serious sin really is- and possibly a loss of faith. With a sincere repentance, it can be transformed into great sorrow, humility, and love, as it did for St. Teresa of Avila, who momentarily abandoned mental prayer, after which Our Lord appeared to her, “stern and grave”, like a loving parent who cares for their children’s health, reminding her that her duty as a nun is to live a life of love and sacrifice. We too are called to love and sacrifice. Whether or not we fall into serious sin, we must never forget that God’s mercy is infinitely greater than our misery, and that the Divine Mercy reaches out to even the most shameful sinners in their final hour. Indeed, there are many stories of great sinners being saved in their final moments, but we must not presumptuously rely on such a grace. Our Lord himself, speaking to St. Faustina about lukewarm souls, said: “There are souls who thwart My efforts, but I have not given up on them; as often as they turn to Me, I hurry to their aid, shielding them with My mercy, and I give them the first place in My compassionate Heart.”)

Why overcome lukewarmness?

“Love Me, and you will be happy; and the more you love Me, the happier you will be! Even when you find yourself in utter darkness, love will produce light, love will produce strength, and love will produce joy!”

(Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone)

“Oh, if you would leave Me to act; I would splendidly transform each one of your lives. But you oppose Me by your desires, your tastes, your resistance. My omnipotent Love is limited by the limit of your generosity.”

(Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity)

“Yes, I am love. You drive Me away every time that you act otherwise than love would suggest and you deprive yourself of the power to love. Without Me your heart cannot love.”

(Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity)

How do I overcome lukewarmness?

We would do well to obey Our Lady of Rosa Mystica who asked for “prayer, penitence, reparation” (sure means for overcoming lukewarmness, as they set our hearts aflame with love of God, compassion for our neighbour etc. Do we think, for example, that because of the compassion that God has shown us in granting us the gift of faith and salvation, we are in some sense obliged to show compassion to our neighbour?)

Furthermore, we should read the lives of saints. St. Philip said that this is a great way to grow in the desire to be holy. The saints show us (first and foremost through their example) the following: the joy of loving God; the malice of sin; the meaning of life; the shortness of life; and the unfathomable love and mercy of God, which always seeks our salvation. The saints remind us that we are called to be saints; we are each called to a unique sanctity, which is God’s special gift to us. If we choose to respond to this gift (which is something that must be done every day) then He will reward us both here and in Heaven! Just look at the joy of the saints! Or read about the intriguing and inspiring mystical phenomenon that surrounded their lives: healings, “bi-location” (and sometimes “tri-location” in the case of Padre Pio!), the stigmata, visions, ecstasies, discernment of spirits, reading of souls, the odour of sanctity, prophecy, the ability to see their guardian angels, “transverberation” of the heart… Yet none of these things compare to the great love that the saints had for God! After all, it was this love that brought down such graces upon them!

A final word (for matters of prudence)

Perhaps reading these words has left us feeling discouraged? That would be a shame. To prevent discouragement, let us recall the following:
+ The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in order to free us from it.
+ The Good God wants us to be “all His” (as He said to Sr. Benigna Consolata), which means dying to sin and to self, and giving ourselves increasingly more to God, our tender Father. He knows that He alone can fill us with joy, peace and love.
+ There is great merit and consolation in praying for the salvation of those who are lukewarm, including those who have approached the hour of death “… For the prayers of one loving soul prevail more with God, both for the living and the dead, than the prayers of a thousand souls who love less.” (Jesus to St. Gertrude)
+ Not everyone is called to the same degree of sanctity. Who could hope to be as holy as Mary, the “Immaculate Conception”? Do not “go ahead” of grace.
+ We can never exhaust the mysteries of God. We must particularly be aware of temptations to doubt God’s goodness, as manifested through His justice. This knowledge should be sufficient: no matter how many are lukewarm, or how many accept God, He remains all loveable. Faith assures us of this. If God allows us to experience doubts and trials, consider them an opportunity to love God by making an act of faith in His goodness. None of us deserve salvation. Let us be grateful for His gifts!

God asks us to do His will, which will correspond to our position in life. As Bl. Mother Teresa put it (so simply): “God doesn’t ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful”. These words echo the words of Our Lady to Sr. Josefa Menendez:

“Do not fear, my child, Jesus asks only for your good will.”

“It is I who do all imperceptibly, gradually; you have only to give Me your soul, to give it without reserve and without resisting My desires. IT IS THUS THAT EVERY SOUL FINDS ALL SHE DESIRES.”  

(Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity)