12 ways to avoid modern idolatry

Quote of the Day:

“A great crown is laid up for you, brothers; don’t barter away a great dignity for a petty pleasure.” – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, as quoted in A Dictionary of Quotes from the Saints by Paul Thigpen.

Today’s 99-Word Contemplation

“Make America Great Again” was his rallying cry. Millions voted him into office, believing, in part, our country had strayed from its Christian roots, desiring sincerely to return to them. I had to wonder, though, what might God’s spiritual rallying cry be to make America great in Him again? He is the only one with the true capacity to make America great again. Perhaps it would be “Trust in Me Again.” Or maybe, just maybe, it would be “Make Me Your Only God Again.” What other gods (i.e., idols) are distracting you from serving the only true God today?

Today’s Reflection

How often do you think about the other gods in your daily life that are distracting you from serving the one and only true God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul?

What, how dare I, you say? You do not have other idols (i.e., false gods) in your life?

Really?

I do.

And I am trying my best to illuminate and eliminate them. But it is an ongoing battle.

In today’s world, it is difficult to not suffer from the materialization of other idols in your life.

Ok, I have probably ruffled some of your feathers by now; but please, allow me to give explanation before you stop reading today’s post!

So, what is an idol?

An idol is anything for which you show an extreme attachment or affection for that takes time away from serving our Heavenly Father.

More simply, an idol is a false god. A false god is anything that is considered to assume a place of undue importance in one’s life.

Therefore, an idol can be a person or an object. An object can be mental, such as an obsession, or physical, such as a smartphone.

So, then . . .

Idolatry, is the excessive attachment or devotion to something or someone that steals time we could otherwise utilize to serve the one true God.

For example, it is often essential in today’s world to spend a bit of time on our phones or laptops, for both business and pleasure. However, when we spend mindless hours a day each day on social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, eHarmony, Tinder) or surfing the web on them for self-entertainment (e.g., news reports, sports reports, Netflix movies, music videos, YouTube videos, or  pornography), that time would likely have been better spent on fulfilling God’s purpose for our life.

What does Holy Scripture say about idolatry?

We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments found in Exodus 20:3. Of those, God’s very first commandment affirms: “… you shall not have other gods beside me.”

In Luke 10:27, Jesus teaches us that we must love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and being, and that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

It is not possible to love God with all our heart, mind, strength (body), and being (soul) if we are giving someone or something else our unwarranted time and attention. Instead, this time and attention we are wasting belongs to God and should be utilized to draw closer to Him.

Consider this: If something or someone (e.g., spouse, employer) excessively controls you or your time, are you not then being subservient to that dominating influence? Basically, to put it bluntly, you are a slave to that person or object.

And God, in his infinite wisdom, understood our basic tendency to so easily stray from him in this manner. That is why His first commandment to us directs us back to him and him alone.

Idols of past and present

When we think of idols in biblical times, we tend to envision graven images. Think golden calves, etc.

However, many of idols of modern times were present in the days of the apostles, too. And they tackle those idols in the Holy Scripture. (See Today’s Supporting Scripture Versus)

What we find is that all the different forms of modern idolatry all have one thing in common: Serving and satisfying ourselves.

Regarding forms of idolatry centered around serving and satisfying ourselves, John 2:16 states that there are three lusts that we all face:

  1. Lust of the flesh
  2. Lust of the eyes
  3. Pride in (lust of) possessions (e.g., money and all it can purchase)

Throughout history, love of money has been prevalent. Pope Francis addressed this when he stated:

“Money robs us of life, and pleasure leads to loneliness. Economic structures
sacrifice human lives for better profits. One lives in hypocrisy, doing and saying what others expect of us, because the god of self-affirmation imposes it. And lives are ruined; families are destroyed; and young people are abandoned to destructive habits, all to increase profit.”

Pope Francis at General Audience, August 1, 2018

That said, we live a materialistic society in America. We like to acquire things, oftentimes simply to acquire them, not because we truly need them. We seem to never feel satisfied with what we have. We like to purchase things that are “bigger and better” than what we already have.

We also tend to let our pride and ego get in the way of our relationship with God. For example, we become obsessed with being the best in our job, the perfect friend, even with having a perfect spiritual life. And usually we have our feelings hurt when others say something that is less than flattering about us (but is often the truth that we just don’t want to face).

Our society looks to science as a place to find answers that, in reality, only God has. Consider, for instance, our search for how and when the universe was created, or our theories of evolution vs. God’s creation story.

In short, many of us like to think that we have control over our own little corner of the world. I find this to be a particularly disturbing notion because it allows a person to build up or his or her ego and self-esteem as if they were a god themselves!

IDOLATRY ABSOLUTELY CONSUMES OUR SOCIETY

A few additional examples of specific forms of modern idolatry that consume our society include:

  • Sexual immorality
  • Impurity
  • Passion
  • Evil desire
  • Covetousness
  • Anger
  • Wrath
  • Malice
  • Slander
  • Obscene talk

How do we eliminate other gods from our lives?

Given God’s first commandment to us is to have no other God’s beside him, we can safely conclude that idolatry is considered the greatest of mortal sins as we are allowing something or someone to excessively distract us from our relationship with the one true God.

God tells us in Exodus 20:5 that He is a jealous God. It surely will not bode well in the end for those found guilty of serving other gods knowingly and willfully.

Therefore, it is important that we learn to fully appreciate God and learn to fear him. Fearing God means we respect him and do our best to obey him. We acknowledge Him as our creator.

God’s throne is his alone. We should never expect Him to share his throne with other gods we conjure up in our self-centered lives.

Our hearts, mind, body, and soul must remain centered on two things according the Christ: God and (serving the needs of) others.

Pope Francis confirmed this at General Audience on August 1, 2018 when he said: “Love is incompatible with idolatry.”

12 ways to avoid modern idolatry

  1. Frequently participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  2. Have a compassionate heart
  3. Be kind
  4. Practice humility
  5. Practice meekness (i.e., gentleness)
  6. Be patient
  7. Bear with one another
  8. Be quick to forgive
  9. Be peaceful
  10. Be thankful
  11. Be generous
  12. Be prayerful

As you look over this list, call to mind the wisdom the Apostle Paul passes on to us in Colossians 3:17 when he reminds us: “… whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

BEGIN THE HEALING PROCESS

Please consult with your parish priest if you feel other gods are present in your life. They can provide both the counsel and, in persona Christi (acting in the person of Christ), the absolution necessary to begin the healing process.

And remember, as Catholics, we understand that a sin is not mortal (meaning serious enough to separate us from God) unless these three things are all present:

  1. It must be a serious matter.
  2. We must have knowledge (or a firm belief) that the act is seriously wrong before committing it.
  3. We must offer full consent of the will.

If any of these three are not present, the sin is generally considered venial in nature, meaning it harms our relationship with God, but does not separate us from him. (Please follow the advice of a priest on this matter if you are in doubt).

We are not always immediately aware that we are (or have become) excessively attached to someone or some object. Therefore, full consent of the will may be lacking. If so, the sin may be considered venial. But left unchecked, it could become a more serious sin over time. Best to address the attachment sooner than later.

However, when the excessive attachment to the person or object does have full consent of our will, it is possible our idolatry has evolved to the level of a mortal sin.

Today’s Supporting Scripture Versus for Additional *Contemplation (NABRE)

*When contemplating scripture, find a verse or short passage that resonates with you. Then, rest your thoughts and simply love, and allow yourself to respond to God’s love. That is, we are allowing the scripture to permeate you in order to grow closer to your Heavenly Father.

Note: The New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE) can be found online at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/search=Genesis+1&version=NABRE

  1. Exodus 20:3-6: Thou shall not have other gods beside me. You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;you shall not bow down before them or serve them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestors’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but showing love down to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  2. Colossians 3:5: Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.
  3. Jonah 2:9: Those who worship worthless idols abandon their hope for mercy.
  4. 1 John 5:21: Children, be on your guard against idols.
  5. Leviticus 19:4: Do not turn aside to idols, nor make molten gods for yourselves. I, the Lord, am your God.
  6. 1 Corinthians 10:14: Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry.
  7. Jeremiah 16:20: Can human beings make for themselves gods? But these are not gods at all!
  8. Matthew 6:33-34: But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
  9. Jeremiah 10:15: They are nothing, objects of ridicule; they will perish in their time of punishment.
  10. Isaiah 57:13: When you cry out, let your collection of idols save you. All these the wind shall carry off, a mere breath shall bear them away; But whoever takes refuge in me shall inherit the land, and possess my holy mountain.

Today’s Supporting Links for Additional *Meditation

*When meditating on scriptures, articles, and other forms of media, you are actively engaging in cognition (i.e., we are actively thinking). That is, you are studying the material in order to learn.

  1. https://www.gotquestions.org/idolatry-modern.html
  2. https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/idolatry
  3. https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/october/idolatry-is-alive-today-why-modern-church-leaders-still-fig.html
  4. https://www.compellingtruth.org/modern-idolatry.html
  5. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-08/pope-francis-general-audience-idolatry.html
  6. https://ivypanda.com/essays/idolatry-of-christianity/
  7. https://www.christianpost.com/news/pope-francis-warns-about-dangers-of-idolatry-among-modern-christians-106674/
  8. https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/relativism
  9. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=9510
  10. http://fatherbroom.com/blog/2012/02/idolatry-dethroning-true-god/

Today’s Prayer for Healing

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace. Amen.

Note: This prayer was retrieved from https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=798

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