"The dragon sickness serves the same purpose in The Hobbit as the Ring serves in The Lord of the Rings. It represents the addictive attraction of sin and its destructive consequences, best summarized in an understanding that the thing possessed possesses the possessor -- or, as the Gospel says, where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)." - Joseph Pearce on the "Dragon Sickness"
So what is the Dragon Sickness? It's that place that we guard and cherish, that secret and comfortable thing that we hoard in darkness - even though doing so turns us into miserable dragons, the way the ring turns Smeagol into Gollum. It's the sickness that the Divine Physician addresses - if we let Him (which, I'm sorry to say, we usually don't).
Consider the following examples of otherwise good Christians acting like selfish dragons, of good Christians (like you and me) getting the sickness (like you and me). I have changed the names, but the stories are all true ...
- Veronica and her husband have three kids. He is transferred to another city, 500 miles away. She refuses to move with him, claiming that she won't upset her kids' lives by pulling them out of the school they're going to and away from their grandparents, who live a few blocks away. Her husband tries to get a local job, but can't find one that pays what Veronica wants him to make, which is the salary he is making at his current job, which is now located in another city, the city to which he's been transferred, the city to which his wife, Veronica, refuses to move. So the husband transfers, sends home his paycheck (minus what he spends to keep an apartment in the new city) and visits the family back home in St. Louis every other weekend. The couple is de facto divorced, and this has been going on for twelve years. The children have largely grown up not knowing their father. Veronica considers herself a good Catholic. She goes to Mass regularly and volunteers at the Church. She does not consider her decision to be selfish or the least bit sinful. She has the sickness. She's hoarding, and it's killing her.
- Amy and her boyfriend have been dating for over three years. Being good Catholics, they haven't have sex. But he won't propose to her, and not having sex with Amy hasn't motivated him to do so. She doesn't seem to want to admit that there's a problem, as she won't date outside her metaphoric zip code, so she's made up her mind to stick with the situation and pour good money after bad, so to speak - for the boyfriend is (you guessed it) a Devout Catholic. She does not consider this decision to be imprudent, selfish, pusillanimous or craven; she's doubling down on this choice, even though he may never come through. In all other areas, she is extremely serious about her Faith, but the reality of her Faith does not penetrate to the heart of who she is, at least not when it comes to the most important thing in her life. The Divine Physician wants to treat this sickness, and though she's happy to oblige Him in many other ways, she won't let Him go there. She's hoarding and it's killing her. She's going to have it her way, even if she can't have it her way.
- Justin is not happy in his marriage. He knows he could improve things if he put his mind to it and dealt with the hard and challenging business at hand. He and his wife have a good foundation of love and trust, but he's letting it slide. It's easier to. He has formed a string of pseudo-intimacies, mostly with women he's met online. These relationships generally burn themselves out, with a lot of pain and anguish along the way. He always ends up finding himself in a position where he is living more for these virtual wives than for his real wife - but he's not committing physical adultery, and he is a very devout Catholic who prides himself on how much he's studied his Faith, so he thinks he's OK - but the vacancy at the heart of his home life is not something he wants to look at. He does not see his substitute relationships as sinful. As much as he loves God and the Catholic Faith, it doesn't sink in, doesn't penetrate to the heart of who he is and what he cares most about in life. These substitute wives, these virtual affairs, are what he treasures and hoards. The Dragon Sickness is killing him.
I could go on.
So could all of you. And of course we see these specks in our neighbors' eyes, but not the planks in our own. We can tell when another has the fever, but we can't assess our own temperature.
But whether we see it in others or we see it in ourselves, the fact remains: we almost never allow the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit in to the place that's most special to us. We guard our secret spot. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mat. 6:21)
Like Smaug the Dragon, we guard our treasure, we shut it up, along with our heart, and meanwhile the One who can cure us stands at the door and patiently knocks.
Advent is the time of His coming. But He's not only coming, He's been here. We may be Waiting for Godot, or even Waiting for Godot to Leave, but Jesus Christ has been here all along, knocking for quite some time. But He doesn't want a quick handshake in the foyer. He wants to be admitted to the most precious and hidden part of your heart. He wants you to spend the thing you've been hoarding and give up the Dragon Sickness.
Stop guarding your sin. Repent and let Him break down the wall.
Let Him at your treasure.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Rev. 3:20)