The Danger of Spiritual Mediocrity

June 10, 2024

The first time someone asked me why I made the Sign of the Cross before a meal I told him that I was grateful to Jesus for the meal I was about to receive. Rousing a sense of curiosity, I followed by explaining that the symbolism behind the Sign of the Cross proclaims and affirms my faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God who died for my sins, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven leaving us to prepare to join Him in heaven, if we desire. Somewhat amused by my explanation, the gentleman asked me again, why? By now our conversation had caught the attention of other restaurant patrons who by all appearances were waiting to hear my response. I told him that the Sign of the Cross represents the love between God, His Son, His Spirit, and us his children. Every time I make the sign of the cross, I declare publicly that I love Him.

The gentleman stared at me for a moment and then proceeded to become visibly upset. At this point with restaurant patrons still staring, I asked if he was ok, he responded, “I would like to know more about this love, but not yet.” With that said, I gave him my card and told him I would pray for him in my hour of prayer with Christ which I briefly described as a Holy Hour of silence with Jesus. He appreciated the offer and said thank you for making the Sign of the Cross.

It is not unique to receive a response when someone views a physical act of faith that arouses curiosity. The Sign of the Cross does display a distinctive spiritual attitude of docility and obedience to faith if properly understood. It is not a public display of spiritual or dogmatic superiority. Within the Divine tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ, specific imagery and symbolism emerged to strengthen our identity and association with the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The Sign of the Cross is the distinctive mark of a Christian who acknowledges, identifies, and proclaims God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It represents a visible sign of our love for God as our Father, Jesus as our Messiah, Savior, and Divine Teacher, and the Holy Spirit as our advocate, guide, and spiritual protector.

From the onset of our Christian identity received at baptism, our human nature created by God is permanently sealed The Trinitarian identity we receive at baptism seals our identity with God through His Son Jesus Christ. The indelible mark received at baptism signifies that we will never be left alone. Baptism serves as an embrace of the Father toward his Children assuring of His presence and ensuring that all of us have a path to Him in heaven. The significance of making the Sign of the Cross is that it reminds us of the need to exercise our faith to avoid spiritual mediocrity.

Spiritual mediocrity can be defined as being indifferent or lacking a desire for faith. It may also be described as an unwillingness to perform at a high level. From another vantage point, a social definition of mediocrity may be defined as being indifferent to anything or anyone around you. Understanding the meaning of mediocrity is important when a person desires to have an active relationship with Jesus Christ. From a Catholic perspective, spiritual mediocrity can be associated with an unwillingness to believe and affirm the teachings of the Catholic Church, indifference towards prayer, and an unwillingness to live an active sacramental life in Jesus Christ.

Throughout Sacred Scripture we encounter multiple instances where Jesus addresses the notion of spiritual mediocrity; when Jesus identified himself as the Son of God who came down from heaven in the Eucharistic discourse described in St. John’s Gospel, he did so to confirm what he had just demonstrated in the feeding of the five thousand. In this prior event, Jesus had spoken of and performed a healing on the Sabbath, He follows this event explaining his relationship with the Father and the works they share in healing, and giving life. Those that honor the Father honor the Son and vice versa. Jesus reveals the intimacy of his relationship with his Father and reminds everyone of the following:

Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.[1]

St. Paul echoes St. John’s words when he emphasizes the importance of having a new life with Christ. He appeals to the brethren through the mercy of God to present our bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, our spiritual worship, and avoid being conformed to the world.[2] Returning the favor so to speak, St. John in the book of Revelation, echoes St. Paul’s words by stressing the importance of avoiding moral mediocrity.[3] These examples stress the danger of normalizing sinful behavior or worse, expressing content. The moment a person crosses the threshold of spiritual mediocrity the view of God within humanity all but disappears. The respect and dignity of the human person, proper attribution to God in all matters of the world, and spiritual and corporal works of mercy now become anathema.

Avoiding any form of spiritual mediocrity requires a willingness to embrace someone or something other than oneself. When a person is placed in a situation to express genuine love toward someone other than themselves, it serves as the first step in breaking free from spiritual mediocrity because now, the focus is on someone else. Their needs become more important than yours, there is an Incarnational element that begins to develop where you begin to encounter a Divine value or awareness of things around you. An antidote to spiritual mediocrity lies in the ability to persevere in love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of the importance to persevere in love as the antidote to dispel all spiritual mediocrity:

Pray constantly . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. St. Paul adds, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints. For we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch, and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing. This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.[4]


[1] Jn 5:19-24

[2] Rom 12:1-3

[3] Rev 3:7-13; 15-22

[4] CCC 2742

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