Day 27 – 90 Days to Peace

Day 27 – 90 Days to Peace

“Freedom from Gluttony” by Fr. James Altman

Dear family, we all have heard of the Seven Deadly Sins, even if we cannot remember all seven on the spot. By the time you get done with the Let Freedom Ring training, all three of us will have written on every one, so you likely could “get” seven out of seven. In a random poll, however, while most would remember pride, greed, and lust, and probably most would remember gluttony – as for sloth, wrath, and envy, not so much. As a confessor, it must be said that most people do not seem to do an adequate and sufficient examination of conscience; they don’t often discuss those times when they have fallen into these deadly sins. When they are confessed, sometimes it’s pride, many, many times it’s lust, and occasionally it’s envy and gluttony. Again, as to the others, not so much. Maybe the deadliest part of any of these is that we do not pay enough attention to them, and that may be because we have not taken the time to meditate upon the fullness of the sin.

Gluttony usually is defined in relation to food, but really could be defined as the overindulgence and overconsumption of anything to the point of waste. The “food” aspect is derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow.

St. Thomas Aquinas took a more expansive view of gluttony, arguing that it could also include an obsessive anticipation of meals. Aquinas prepared a list of five ways to commit gluttony, one of which was eating too much. Another “ardenter” – was eating too eagerly. Of these, ardenter was often considered the most serious, since it is extreme attachment to the pleasure of mere eating (I’m not sure if my attachment to Flaming Hot Cheetos falls into this category, but when I use it as a breakfast comfort food, I’m probably skating on thin ice!) Aquinas said ardenter can make the committer eat impulsively; absolutely and without qualification live merely to eat and drink; lose attachment to health-related, social, intellectual, and spiritual pleasures; and lose proper judgement. (Pretty sure I’m not there yet, on those Flaming Hot Cheetos.)

The great Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines gluttony thusly: “Inordinate desire for the pleasure connected with food or drink. This desire may become sinful in various ways: by eating or drinking far more than a person needs to maintain bodily strength; by glutting one’s taste for certain kinds of food with known detriment to health; by indulging the appetite for exquisite food or drink, especially when these are beyond one’s ability to afford a luxurious diet; by eating or drinking too avidly, i.e., ravenously; by consuming alcoholic beverages to the point of losing full control of one’s reasoning powers. Intoxication that ends in complete loss of reason is a mortal sin ….”

Donald Attwater’s A Catholic Dictionary also points out that this rising to the level of mortal sin occurs when food consumption is excessive to the point of causing health issues, or drinking is excessive to the point of intoxication.

The point of all this – which may border on TMI (too much information) – is that if we do not know what we are talking about, how will we ever know if we are, as mentioned, possibly skating on that thin ice?

The bottom line – gluttony easily can be understood as eating and drinking too much. It is fair to say that Americans fall much more into the category of Rich Man Dives: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day” (Luke 16:19), than we fall into the category of Poor Man Lazarus: “And lying at [Dives’] door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores” (Luke 16:20-21). And that will be a problem one day, because we all know where Dives ended up — yes, the eternal tormenting fires of hell! How much better to aspire to the example of St. Teresa of Calcutta who served the poorest of the poor, who served all the “Poor Man Lazaruses” of Calcutta.

We are well off in America. In fact, it has been said that the poorest Americans are richer than the richest third-world-citizens. Are we so gluttonous, has gluttony become so much a part of our day-to-day, that we do not even recognize it for what it is? Are we just like Dives? He seemed clueless, didn’t he? And yet, remember in Jesus’ parable, it was not like Dives did not know Poor Man Lazarus. In the reality to which Jesus spoke, Dives practically would have had to trip over Lazarus every time he went in and out of the front gate. We actually know that Dives knew exactly who Lazarus was, because Dives called him by name when Dives appealed to Abraham: “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames” (Luke 16:24).

Dear family, let us take time to realize just how much we have, how much we consume (especially food and alcohol), and then ponder whether we genuinely have fasted from either.  Have we freed up and offered some of our wealth for the benefit of the Lazaruses who might be sitting outside our own front gate? (From “Let Freedom Ring“)


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