Paul VI Hall
Wednesday, 8 August 2018
Catechesis on the Commandments: 5. Idolatry
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
We continue today to meditate on the Decalogue, deepening the theme of idolatry, we talked about it last week. Now let's get back to the topic because it's very important to know it. And we take a cue from the idol par excellence, the golden calf, mentioned in the Book of Exodus (32.1-8) - we have just listened to a passage. This episode has a precise context: the desert, where the people await Moses, who climbed the mountain to receive the instructions from God.
What is the desert? It is a place where insecurity and insecurity reign - there is nothing in the desert - where there is no water, there is no food and there is no shelter. The desert is an image of human life, whose condition is uncertain and has no inviolable guarantees. This insecurity generates in man primary anxieties, which Jesus mentions in the Gospel: "What shall we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? "(Mt 6,31). These are primary anxieties. And the desert causes these anxieties.
And in that desert something happens that triggers idolatry. «Moses was slow to come down from the mountain» (Ex 32,1). He stayed there 40 days and people became impatient. The reference point that was Moses is missing: the leader, the leader, the reassuring guide, and this becomes unsustainable. Then the people ask for a visible god - this is the trap in which the people falls - to be able to identify and guide. And they say to Aaron: "Do for us a god who walks in our head!", "Make us a leader, make us a leader". Human nature, to escape from precariousness - precariousness is the desert - seeks a "do-it-yourself" religion: if God does not show himself, we make ourselves a made-to-measure god. «In front of the idol one does not risk the possibility of a call that brings out one's own certainties, because the idols" have a mouth and do not speak "(Ps 115,5). We then understand that the idol is a pretext to place oneself at the center of reality, in the adoration of the work of one's own hands "(Enc. Lumen fidei, 13).
Aronne can not oppose people's requests and creates a golden calf. The veal had a twofold meaning in the ancient Near East: on the one hand it represented fruitfulness and abundance, and on the other it represented energy and strength. But above all it is golden, so it is a symbol of wealth, success, power and money. These are the great idols: success, power and money. These are the temptations of all time! Here is what the golden calf is: the symbol of all the desires that give the illusion of freedom and instead enslave, because the idol always enslaves. There is charm and you go. That charm of the snake, which looks at the bird and the bird remains without being able to move and the snake catches it. Aronne did not know how to oppose.
But everything stems from the inability to trust above all in God, to place our safety in Him, to let Him give true depth to the desires of our heart. This also allows us to support weakness, uncertainty and insecurity. The reference to God makes us strong in weakness, in uncertainty and also in precariousness. Without God's primacy one easily falls into idolatry and is content with meager assurances. But this is a temptation that we always read in the Bible. And think this well: freeing the people from Egypt to God did not cost so much work; he did it with signs of power, of love. But God's great work was to remove Egypt from the heart of the people, that is, to remove idolatry from the heart of the people. And yet God continues to work to remove it from our hearts. This is the great work of God: to take away "that Egypt" that we carry within, which is the charm of idolatry.
When we welcome the God of Jesus Christ, who made himself poor for us as a rich man (cf. 2 Cor 8: 9), we discover that recognizing our weakness is not the misfortune of human life, but it is the condition to open up to who is really strong. Then God's salvation enters through the door of weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12:10); it is because of his own insufficiency that man opens himself to the fatherhood of God. Man's freedom arises from letting the true God be the only Lord. And this allows us to accept our own fragility and reject the idols of our hearts.
We Christians turn our gaze to Christ crucified (cf. Jn 19:37), who is weak, despised and stripped of all possession. But in him the face of the true God is revealed, the glory of love and not that of shimmering deception. Isaiah says: "By his wounds we have been healed" (53.5). We were healed precisely by the weakness of a man who was God, by his wounds. And from our weaknesses we can open ourselves to the salvation of God. Our healing comes from Him who became poor, who accepted failure, who took our precariousness to the end to fill it with love and strength. He comes to reveal to us the fatherhood of God; in Christ our fragility is no longer a curse, but a place of encounter with the Father and the source of a new force from above.