“But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Rev. 3:16, NLT)
As seen from the quote above, Jesus has a particular repugnance to lukewarmness. He is less offended by coldness than lukewarmness. In his essay on “Lukewarmness” (Growth in Holiness, Chapter 25), the acclaimed spiritual writer, Father F. W. Faber, says there are three causes of lukewarmness:
1. a sort of comfort in committing venial sins;
2. habitual dissipation of mind; and
3. the failure to identify and wage war against one’s ruling passion or primary fault.
The bad results of this lukewarmness are: corruption of conscience, moderation in the love of God (a shrinking back), and, perhaps most telling: a profane use of the sacraments.
A key preliminary point: “WE CANNOT” – as Father Faber says – be “TEPID ABOUT THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.” The Eucharist must mean everything to us. We must be careful to prepare adequately to receive Holy Communion, and also to be truly sorry for our sins when we go to confession.
Faber lists seven signs of lukewarmness:
1. constant putting off of our daily devotions;
2. negligence and lack of attention when performing them;
3. not feeling right with God;
4. acting without any intention or with indifference;
5. carelessness about growing in virtue;
6. contempt of little things and daily opportunities which, if performed, give glory to God; and
7. looking back at the good we have done rather than forward to the good we need to do in the future.
Father Faber lists five remedies to overcome lukewarmness:
1. to meditate on the eternal truths of our faith, and thus to understand their overwhelming importance;
2. making ourselves less busy so that we can perform our devotions/prayers with proper piety and recollection;
3. the practice of silence, which I presume opens us to recollection in God;
4. to persevere in our daily spiritual exercises despite dryness and distractions (hugely important!!); and
5. practicing some form of exterior mortification like fasting or some form of bodily penance (within your means and
prudently: a sort of antidote to worldliness and the fallen human spirit).
The opposite of lukewarmness is fervor, which is acting with vigor and a holy promptitude, which is the state of the saints. It is a fervor that is saturated in the peace, patience and holy discretion of the Holy Spirit (relying on Faber). In short, we must be aware of when lukewarmness is creeping into our spiritual life, and then utilize the remedies suggested by Father Faber to overcome this dreadful condition that Jesus so loathes. Naturally, prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary in this regard will be very useful in overcoming lukewarmness.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Reference: For this note I am relying completely on Father Faber’s essay on Lukewarmness, and this note is primarily a condensed, edited version of same.
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