Paul VI Hall
Wednesday, 1 August 2018
Catechesis on the Commandments. 4. «You will not have other gods in front of me»
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
We have heard the first commandment of the Decalogue: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20: 3). It is good to dwell on the theme of idolatry, which is of great importance and actuality.
The command forbids making idols  or images  of any kind of reality:  everything, in fact, can be used as an idol. We are talking about a human tendency that does not spare either believers or atheists. For example, we Christians can ask ourselves: what is really my God? Is the Love of the One and the Triune or is it my image, my personal success, perhaps within the Church? "Idolatry is not just about the false cults of paganism. There remains a constant temptation of faith. It consists in divinizing what is not God "(Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2113).
What is a "god" on an existential level? It is what is at the center of one's life and on which what one does and thinks depends.  One can grow up in a nominally Christian family, but centered, in reality, on points of reference that are not part of the Gospel.  Human beings do not live without focusing on something. So here the world offers the "supermarket" of idols, which can be objects, images, ideas, roles. For example, even prayer. We must pray to God, our Father. I remember once I went to a parish in the diocese of Buenos Aires to celebrate a Mass and then I had to make confirmations in another parish at a distance of one kilometer. I went, walking, and I went through a park, nice. But in that park there were more than 50 tables each with two chairs and people sitting in front of each other. What was it done? Tarot cards. They went there to "pray" the idol. Instead of praying to God for the providence of the future, they went there because they read the papers to see the future. This is an idolatry of our times. I ask you: how many of you have gone to make you read the papers to see the future? How many of you, for example, have you gone to read your hands to see the future, instead of praying to the Lord? This is the difference: the Lord is alive; the others are idols, idolatries that do not serve.
How does an idolatry develop? The commandment describes phases: «You will not make yourself an idol or an image [...]. / You shall not bow down to them / and you will not serve them "(Ex 20: 4-5).
The word "idol" in Greek derives from the verb "to see".  An idol is a "vision" that tends to become a fixation, an obsession. The idol is actually a projection of oneself into objects or projects. For example, this dynamic uses advertising: I do not see the object itself, but I perceive that car, the smartphone, that role - or other things - as a means of achieving and responding to my essential needs. And I look for him, I talk about that, I think about that; the idea of owning that object or realizing that project, reaching that position, seems a marvelous way to happiness, a tower to reach heaven (cf. Gen 11,1-9), and everything becomes functional to that goal.
Then you enter the second phase: «You will not bow down to them». The idols demand a cult, of rituals; to them we prostrate ourselves and sacrifice everything. In ancient times human sacrifices were made to the idols, but also today: for the career they sacrifice their children, neglecting them or simply not generating them; beauty calls for human sacrifice. How many hours in front of the mirror! Some people, some women, how much do they spend to make up? This is also an idolatry. It is not bad to wear make-up; but in a normal way, not to become a goddess. Beauty calls for human sacrifice. Fame demands the immolation of oneself, one's own innocence and authenticity. The idols ask for blood. Money steals life and pleasure leads to loneliness. Economic structures sacrifice human lives for greater profits. We think of so many people without work. Because? Because sometimes it happens that the entrepreneurs of that company, that company, have decided to dismiss people, to earn more money. The idol of money. One lives in hypocrisy, doing and saying what others expect, because the god of his affirmation imposes it. And lives are ruined, families are destroyed and young people are left in the hands of destructive models, just to increase profit. Drug is also an idol. How many young people ruin health, even life, by worshiping this drug idol.
Here comes the third and most tragic stage: "... and you will not serve them," he says. The idols enslave. They promise happiness but do not damage it; and we find ourselves living for that thing or that vision, caught in a self-destructive vortex, waiting for a result that never comes.
Dear brothers and sisters, idols promise life, but in reality they take it away. The true God does not ask for life but gives it, gives it. The true God does not offer a projection of our success, but teaches us to love. The true God does not ask for children, but he gives his Son for us. The idols project future hypotheses and make the present despise; the true God teaches us to live in the reality of every day, concretely, not with illusions about the future: today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, walking towards the future. The concreteness of the true God against the liquidity of idols. I invite you to think today: how many idols do I have or what is my favorite idol? Because recognizing one's idolatries is a beginning of grace, and puts on the path of love. In fact, love is incompatible with idolatry: if something becomes absolute and untouchable, then it is more important than a spouse, a child, or a friendship. Attachment to an object or an idea makes us blind to love. And so to go after idols, to an idol, we can even deny the father, the mother, the children, the wife, the groom, the family ... the dearest things. Attachment to an object or an idea makes us blind to love. Bring this in your heart: idols steal our love, idols make us blind to love and to truly love we must be free from every idol.