What is your ‘idol’? If God is not at the center of your life, take this idol and throw it out the window.
Pope Francis didn’t shy away from giving this advice during today’s General Audience of Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, as he continued his catecheses on the Commandments, during his first weekly audience since his summer break.
The Pope reflected on idolatry, and on how we are to have no gods other than God, who ought to remain at the center of our lives, always.
“We Christians can ask ourselves: who, truly, is my God?” the Pope said, asking: “Is it the One and Triune Love or is it my image, my personal success, perhaps, within the Church? ‘Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2113).”
The ‘Supermarket’ of Idols
The human being, the Pope observed, doesn’t live without centering himself on something, which can be dangerous as we are here in a world “that offers a “supermarket” of idols.” Yet, the right approach, the Pope noted, for confronting this is to pray, to pray to Our Father.
“I remember once I had gone to a parish in the diocese of Buenos Aires to celebrate a Mass and then I had to do Confirmations in another parish a kilometer away. I went, walking, and found a beautiful park. However, in that park there were more than 50 small tables, each one with two chairs and the people were seated, one in front of the other. What were they doing? Tarot cards. They went there “to pray” to an idol.”
Instead of praying to God who is providence of the future, the Pope said, they went there to read the cards to see the future. This, he lamented, is “an idolatry of our times.”
Cards or Hands for Future, Rather Than Prayer
“I ask you: how many of you have gone to have cards read to you to see the future? How many of you, for example, have gone to have your hands read to see the future, instead of praying to the Lord? This is the difference: the Lord is alive; the others are idols, idolatries that are useless.”
The word “idol” in Greek, the Jesuit Pope noted, is derived from the verb “to see.” An idol, he said, is a “vision,” which tends to become a fixation, an obsession, and often a projection of oneself in objects or in projects.
“Advertising, for example, makes use of this dynamic: I don’t see the object in itself but I perceive that car, that smartphone, that role — or other things — as a means to fulfil myself and of responding to my essential needs. And I seek it, speak of it, think of it; the idea of possessing that object or of doing that project, attaining that position, seems a wonderful way to happiness, a tower to reach the heavens, and everything becomes functional to that goal.”
Limits on Makeup
Idols exact worship and rituals, the Pope warned, noting that to them, one bows down and sacrifices everything.
“In antiquity, human sacrifices were made to idols, but also today: children are sacrificed for a career, by neglecting them or simply not generating them; beauty calls for human sacrifices. How many hours spent in front of a mirror! Certain persons, certain women, how much time they spend putting on makeup?!”
“This is also idolatry. It’s not bad to put on makeup, but in a normal way, not to become a goddess,” he said, also decrying harms of when money, fame, and drugs become idols.
“Idols enslave. They promise happiness but don’t give it; and one finds oneself living for that thing or for that vision, caught in a self-destructive vortex, in the expectation of a result that never arrives.”
Promise Life, But Take It Away
Idols, the Pope declared, promise life, but in reality that take it away.
“The true God doesn’t ask for life but gives it, gifts it. The true God doesn’t offer a projection of our success, but teaches to love. The true God doesn’t ask for children, but gives His Son for us. Idols project future hypotheses and make one disdain the present; the true God teaches one to live in the reality of every day, in the concrete, not with illusions about the future…”
The Holy Father invited those present to ask themselves: “How many idols do I have and which is my favorite idol? — because to recognize one’s idolatries is a beginning of grace, and puts one on the way of love.”
Out the Window
“Carry this in your heart: idols rob you of love, idols make you blind to love and to truly love it’s necessary to be free of idols. What is my idol? Take it out and throw it out of the window!”
St Alphonsus Maria Liguori
Pope Francis concluded, imparting on those present his Apostolic Blessing and remembering that today marks the Feast Day of Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, “zealous pastor who won people’s hearts with meekness and tenderness, fruits of his relationship with God, who is infinite goodness.”
“May his example help you to live your faith with joy in simple everyday actions,” the Pope prayed.
Full English Text of August 1, 2018, General Audience, on Zenit’s Web page