|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a confession to make. I have a sinful habit: I starve my body of sleep!
It has not always been sinful, just a bad habit. I like to go to bed late, and I love to get up early. I will get as little as three hours of sleep and as much as a whopping seven. I average around four or five hours of sleep each night. It has moved from a bad habit to a sinful habit because it is now getting in between God and me.
Twice this last week, I have fallen asleep during my hour of Morning Prayer. I tried to make up for those lost minutes of prayer later in the afternoon, and within less than five seconds I was asleep again. I knew that it was no longer just a bad habit. It was now a sinful one. It was now between God and me.
My friends have been telling me for ages that I should be getting more sleep. My family is worried about it. Even the Bishop has said to me, “You need to get more sleep,” as he gets a 3 a.m. e-mail from me. But it was my spiritual director who got my attention when he said it was a spiritual problem!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is not railing against mammon. He is not saying that money or material wealth is a problem; he is saying that it is only a problem if God is not the master of it. We cannot serve two masters: either we serve God as our master, or we allow mammon to dictate the rules. My “mammon” is lack of sleep.
If we are not finding enough time for prayer, we have another master. We know these things intellectually, but somehow we cannot affect change in our lives until we recognize that we do not have just bad habits. We have sinful habits because they get between God and us.
Today there are many people not getting enough sleep, especially young people in school. They are not getting to bed on time, and I understand that all too well. But if they do not have time for God, then their habit is no longer just a bad habit; it is in fact a sinful habit.
I ask you to challenge yourself and find out what it is that separates you from God. What is holding you back from developing a more profound and deeper relationship with God and Jesus Christ? And whatever habit that you thought was just a bad habit, maybe it is a sinful one because it is holding you back from being with God. Reflect on this reality for Lent and give up something different!