June 10, 2016 Friday: Blessed Anna Maria Taigi
Desires/Appetites that Blind Us
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
We all have our fatal attractions. No matter how often we are burnt by fire, it seems that we are powerless to stay away from the source of our misery . And against our better judgment, we are drawn back over and over again. You would think that we would learn from our mistakes. St. John of the Cross tells us that desire “dulls” the memory (A.1.8.2); that is, in the heat of the moment, we can recall the painful consequences of past choices, but those memories have no more force than that of a vague idea. Our inordinate appetites encapsulate us in the present moment so that we ignore the painful lessons of the past and become heedless of future danger.
The Fisherman’s Lure (A.1.8.3)
“Those who feed on their appetites are like a fish dazzled by a light that so darkens it that the fisherman’s lure cannot be seen” (A.1.8.3). The psychological and spiritual dynamics of blindness contained in this image are similar to those that we discussed in our previous reflection, namely, that the pursuit of our inordinate appetites darkens the intellect , weakens the will , and dulls the memory (A.1.8.2). However, this image contains an added dimension: it is only after the bait has been swallowed that our eyes are opened. This is because “these evils do not unmask themselves at the moment the appetite is being satisfied, since the pleasure of the moment is an obstacle to this. Yet sooner or later the harmful effects will certainly be felt” (A.1.12.5; italics added).
At other times, it is only long after we have indulged our inordinate appetites that we recognize their harmful effects. In this regard, St. Augustine , writing of greed for temporal goods, says the following: “Such delight, however, is blindness and utter misery , for it ensnares the soul all the more and leads it on to worse afflictions. The fish is delighted, too, when, failing to notice the hook, it devours the bait. But, when the fisherman begins to draw his line, first the fish’s inner parts are dislocated; after that it is dragged to its destruction, away from all the pleasure that its joy in the bait had brought it. So it is with all who imagine they are happy with temporal goods. They have swallowed the hook and wander aimlessly about with it. The time will come for them to experience how much anguish they have devoured in their greediness.” 12 We all know the truth contained in Augustine’s image. Often in life, it is only long after we have indulged our inordinate appetites that their destructive effects become manifest.
We all have our fatal attractions. What do I believe God is instructing me to do in order to protect myself against them? Do I have a desire that makes me pursue something with a savage intensity that overwhelms me with guilt and shame the moment it is satisfied? Have I ever awakened to the harmful consequences that an inordinate habit has had on my life over time? Have I ever considered that this realization is God’s merciful invitation to change?
Fr. Marc Foley, OCD
The ascent of Mount Carmel : reflections