One of the most frightening verses in the Bible is found in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. Messages are sent to the seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally Laodicea.    In the last of these churches a shocking and threatening message booms out: “I know your works: I know that you are neither cold or hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,  I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3: 15-16).  Earlier we hear the same message with a slight change in words:  “You have lost your first love….”

The great English poet T.S. Eliot expressed it as such:   “The world will not go up with a boom, but will end with a whimper.”

What has happened in the modern world to Christians, to Catholics,  so called “Followers of Christ”?   The passionate love of the saints for Jesus, the Church and the salvation of immortal souls has been lost.   Jim Morrison of the Rock n’ Roll group of the 60s composed the immortal song,  “Come on baby, light my fire.”   Passion in the hearts of modern man exists but a passion for the wrong thing!  Drink, drugs, porn and sex, money and power, wealth and fame, parties and luxurious eating--- all of these are sought after with a real “Passion”, a real “Gusto”.      The modern proverbs reign high in the minds and hearts of men, such as, “It is Miller time!”   Or “get all the gusto out of life” (with beer!).  Still another, “You deserve a break today at Macdonald’s!”   Having a beer, a hamburger or fries is not sinful, but if this is our passion in life, we are heading down the wrong track.

The direction and movement of our hearts must be directed to another passion, another fire and that is to JESUS!  He said, “I have come to bring fire to the earth and I am not at peace until that fire be enkindled.”  As Romeo had a passion for his lover Juliet and as Juliet had a passion for her lover Romeo, so should we as followers of Christ have a passion for Him!

What are some evident signs of lukewarmness that threatens to extinguish the fire of Christ’s love in our hearts?

1.     WEAK AND ANEMIC PRAYER LIFE!   St. Teresa of Avila defines prayer as wanting to spend a long time in silence with the Friend who loves me.  Skipping prayer, inconstancy in prayer, cutting short prayer time, willful distraction in prayer--- all of the above are clear and evident signs of luke- warmness and tepidity.  My relationship to God is in direct proportion to my communication with Him on the level of prayer!

2.     CAVING IN TO VENIAL SIN!   St. Ignatius of Loyola in his meditation on the three grades of humility says that we should be ready to die rather than commit a mortal sin and then we should be ready to die rather than commit one deliberate venial sin! Lukewarm people reason this way:  “Well it is only a venial sin!  Big deal!”  St. Teresa of Avila was horrified at this attitude!  If we truly love somebody we do not want to offend our love even in the slightest way!

3.     DANCING WITH “MR. D” (THE DEVIL).   The authentic followers of Christ, His true soldiers, fight constantly for His cause, and this means against the devil, the flesh and the world.  Upon becoming aware of temptation, the soldier fights and rejects the temptation from the onset!  The tepid person allows the temptation, dances some steps with it, toys with it and eventually discards it, but not with any real energy or determination!

4.    ANEMIC AND DISTRACTED LITURGICAL LIFE!   The lukewarm person will come to Mass, but has a weak disposition. Somewhat apathetic and indifferent toward the Sacred reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the lukewarm often arrives late, eyes wander right and left and up and down, gets up to go to the bathroom during the collection or maybe even the homily, then if he receives Holy Communion it is done in a mechanical or perfunctory manner. Finally late for Mass, the lukewarm is intent upon being the first to leave Mass!  Therefore, the infinite spiritual blessings that flow from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are received in the most minimal fashion!

5.     LOOSE-TONGUE-LUCY!   All too often the person contaminated with the modern malaise of lukewarmness gives free expression to all the thoughts that  rush through his/her mind! No reflection, no consideration, much less any serious spiritual meditation, the lukewarm falls prey to the all-too prevalent plague of gossip! Not aware of the teachings found in the letter of St James, “One should be slow to speak and quick to listen,” the lukewarm individual’s tongue transforms itself into an instrument of spreading gossip, white lies, off-colored jokes all to the detriment against charity to countless people!   One day we will be judged and have to render an account for all of the words that have issued from our mouths!

6.    INDISCRIMINATE VIEWING WITH THE EYES!    Frequently the lukewarm gives free reign to watching and viewing anything and everything that comes down the turnpike of the T.V.  Soap operas, indecent commercials, modern movies with frequent “spicy” scenes, all of these are consumed with the eyes without the least discretion or discernment as to the moral quality of the content!  Archbishop Fulton Sheen once made the remark that a raunchy meal could be eliminated by a good vomit or two! Not the same with the eyes that consume moral garbage indecency and impurity. Experts agree that to dislodge an impure image might take years!

7.     THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOMORROW!  C.S. Lewis in his classic “Screwtape Letters” presents a scene of Satan in meeting with three other devils planning the best way to trip souls into falling into hell! The first devil offers advice to convince people that heaven does not exist! Satan retorts, “No, people are aware of awards in this life for achievements and will apply this to the eternal award of heaven!”  The second devil then suggests, “Why not convince those earthlings that hell does not exist!” Satan once again rebuts, “Stupid! If people believe in awards then they will believe in punishment. If jails exist so will there be punishment after death. Finally the third devil approaches Satan and says, “Why don’t’ we convince the people to put off their conversion for   TOMORROW!!!  Exultant and sure of victory, Satan applauds the insight of the third devil! Therefore, the plan of Satan is to convince the worldlings that life is long, they can enjoy life, live and relish sin and pleasure and there will always be a tomorrow to change and be converted!   A frequent sign of the lukewarm is the knowledge that he/she must change and renounce some sin or even vice , but there is always a tomorrow!

In conclusion, let us call to mind the words of the book of Revelation: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  (Rev. 3:15-16)

Let us never give in to discouragement, but trust all the more in the infinite mercy of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  With a good examination of conscience, a good confession, a renewed desire to be fervent in our prayer life, and an ardent devotion to Our Lady we can extricate ourselves from the quicksand of mediocrity, tepidity and lukewarmness and still be great saints.   The last words that St. Ignatius said to St. Francis Xavier as he was sent to India to become the second greatest missionary in the world—only after St. Paul—were, “GO SET ALL ON FIRE!!!!!”     May we except that challenge and allow the words of Jesus to transform us into fiery apostles and saints: “  I HAVE COME TO CAST FIRE ON THE EARTH AND I AM NOT AT PEACE UNTIL THAT FIRE BE IGNITED!”    May you become that fiery arrow in the hands of Jesus the Lord!