Idolatry of Power and Wealth Robs Man of Dignity, Says Pope

“A Temptation of all of Humanity in all Lands and at all Times”

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II said that the idols of power, wealth and fame end up depriving man of his dignity.

“Idolatry is a temptation of all of humanity in all lands and at all times,” the Holy Father said on Wednesday during the general audience held at the Vatican.

The Pope commented on Psalm 115, “Hymn to the True God.”

“The idol is an inanimate thing, born from the hands of men, cold statue, deprived of life,” he explained.

In fact, the psalm commented on by the Pope describes the idol ironically “in its seven totally useless members: silent mouth, blind eyes, deaf ears, nose that does not smell, inert hands, paralyzed feet and throat that does not make a sound.”

“After this merciless criticism of the idols, the psalmist makes a sarcastic remark: ‘Their makers shall be like them, all who trust in them.'”

“It is a wish expressed undoubtedly in an effective way to produce the effect of radical dissuasion before idolatry,” the Pope continued.

“Whoever adores the idol of wealth, power, success loses his dignity as a human person,” John Paul II added. He then quoted the prophet Isaiah: “Idol makers all amount to nothing, and their precious works are of no avail, as they themselves give witness. To their shame, they neither see nor know anything; and they are more deaf than men are.”

“On the contrary, the Lord’s faithful know that they have ‘their help’ and ‘their shield’ in the living God,” the Holy Father stressed.

Lastly, John Paul II quoted a father of the Eastern Church, St. Gregory of Nyssa (4th century), who wrote of “humanity’s passage from the ‘ice of idolatry’ to the spring of salvation.”

“As those who trust in the true God receive in themselves the peculiarities of divine nature, so also those who turn to the vanity of idols become that in which they trust and, from being men become stones,” noted St. Gregory.

The general audience was held in the Paul VI auditorium in the Vatican, where the Pope received thousands of pilgrims who could not have been accommodated in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo, where the Holy Father is spending the rest of the summer.

John Paul II’s meditation was a continuation of his series of commentaries on the Psalms and canticles of vespers. They may be consulted in the Wednesday Audience section of ZENIT’s web page.

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