Recidivism — the temptation to revert to proven-to-fail former ways — is perhaps the most common and dangerous threats to the spiritual life.

Just as the ancient Israelites, God’s chosen people, complained in the desert, tempted to return to the fleshpots and servitude of Egypt, so also in today’s secular wilderness, we are and will be tempted, through frustration, exhaustion or anger, to regress to losing ways.

In order to stay healthy spiritually, we need to feed on the Bread of Life, the Lamb of God and the new Passover — Jesus himself — without whom we can do nothing.

Summer is prime time for such temptations. Classic symptoms of this spiritual relapse are a gradual falling back into oneself, submission to an old enticement, lazing on the sands of what the masters call the acedia.

“At its core, acedia is aversion to our relationship to God because of the transforming demands of his love,” explains philosophy professor Rebecca DeYoung of Calvin College in Michigan, a popular spiritual author. “God wants to kick down the whole door to our hearts and flood us with his life; we want to keep the door partway shut so that a few lingering treasures remain untouched, hidden in the shadows.”

Almost unwittingly, we may give in to the lure of summer torpor, slowly withdrawing from practices of prayer, reflection, sacramental participation and active engagement in our parish (ecclesial) life.

Satan relishes torrid climates! What is worse, we separate our children as well from the source of life.

Not accidentally, this parallels patterns in the lives of those who become entrapped in various addictions, chemical or otherwise. As the old or new (yet always false) attractions begin to ensnare the usually unwary prey, the victim becomes increasingly more isolated from healthy connections and begins to starve and wither on the vine, spiritually and physically.

Anyone who witnesses the gradual decline in health and happiness of a loved one entangled in alcohol or (other) drug abuse, knows how ugly this looks: the sad, gaunt and pale countenances of those unfortunate souls, soliciting at traffic intersections, arms covered in the heat of summer — not only to conceal scars, but also because the progression of their malady diminishes the body’s temperature gauge.

Even without (or before) the onset of substance addiction, withdrawal from the one and only source of spiritual life, the divine presence that alone can feed the soul, depression typically creeps its way into the vacated space.

It is somewhat like those anthropocentrically reinvented “worship spaces” that, deliberately or not, downsize references to the reserved sacramental presence. A vase of synthetic flowers or some other ill-fitting artifice occupies a niche where a tabernacle once was or may have been.

Diminishing awareness of the presence of God does not enhance our humanity.

To be fully human, we need to be fully alive in and to the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in us. We cannot live on the mortal substance of our selves, expecting our own memories and thoughts and material resources to feed our hunger for the life that lasts.

Such self-absorption is the fast track, the free-fall to social isolation, depression and, as observation increasingly tends to reveal, even physical deterioration.

A church community alienated from its vibrant spiritual founts of word and sacrament also becomes consumed in its own agenda, which more often follow the social and political waves of the times, which can lead to discord and division.

Centering on the Eucharist as the source and substance of the ecclesial life not only offers members of the church community their “daily bread,” but also fosters and forges communion in the one family of faith that alone can give credible witness to the world of how Christ transforms lives.

To bear witness to the world of the God’s mercy and the joy of the Gospel — which is the main thing Christ commissioned each of his disciples to do — is rooted in the life experience of the believer who trusts in Jesus as the fount and center of his or her life. We live, and live eternally, in and because of the indwelling of the risen Christ and the trinitarian God-life into which a personal relationship with Christ draws us.

Without this life, renewed each day in prayer, word and sacrament, the Church becomes unhinged from her moorings and we, as members of this mystical body of Christ, wander off the path that alone can lead us to our spiritual home where we find our true identity and the peace it brings.

We begin to understand, from this perspective, how the Eucharist “draws us in” to an intimate relationship with God and, at the same time, sends us out into the world to bear and share this Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is when we empty ourselves — of our egos and pride and prejudices — that we are best able to bring the saving Gospel personally to others, without fear or anxiety. Our faith is then lived in the open, face to face, in the encounter with the neighbor of which Pope Francis speaks so eloquently, not confined to the pew or to the “safe space” of the false prophets of electronic mail and social media.

Getting “back to basics,” as disciples of Jesus, leads us always to the sum and substance of our life, as his family of believers: the Eucharist. From this, the Church is born and reborn as the body of Christ in the world, today and in every age. From this foundation, we are impelled by the Holy Spirit to evangelize, to go into the world and to tell the Good News.

(Follow the Bishop at and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)