Thursday, January 2, 2014

Modern Idolatry

How can we recall that Jesus was crucified for love of us and still love anything but Him? - St. Francis de Sales
Joseph Ratzinger in his work Introduction to Christianity makes the compelling point that to reject paganism, even something as innocuous as aiding the purchase of an animal that would be sacrificed, for the entirety of Christianity and without any willing compromise, was to reject the entirety of the Roman system. It was to reject the world yet remain in it. Christ is Lord over Caesar, who as time went on became to be less of the first citizen and an implied god to being Emperor and an outright divinity.

The victory of Christianity over the Roman religion creates a rupture in idolatry and paganism. No longer, at least in the West, can we claim to worship other gods, or at least the same ones as the Greeks and Romans. No longer can we offer the sacrifices of bulls and goats or leave other offerings.

But that doesn't mean idolatry disappeared. It just means neo-pagans, the Stonehenge gathering kind or the people in the Mediterranean world who gather on the ancient sites, are trying to resurrect a religion with nothing to resurrect. St. Augustine was convinced, I believe, that the Roman gods at least were not real (I suppose just an attempt to reach without the aid of Scripture and Tradition the one true God), and demons of course have no power over God, and besides I doubt most people want to resurrect the ancient Irish cult to the demon most call Moloch, not usually under that title anyways.

For some, they value abortion and contraception above all other things. That is the cult of Moloch in disguise, and I am sure Satanists proliferate in the abortion industry. For some, revolution and the destruction of all that has been handed down to us in exchange for some radical notion of equality and liberation is their god.

But for most of us, it's not quite that easy. We develop our likes, usually of good things or at least morally neutral ones. Sports, music, books, the computer, the television, and so on and so forth. They take over the time we could otherwise spend in prayer and work. So much time is wasted to these things. Especially in the institutional things, it develops a quasi-religious structure and takes time away from the practice of true religion. Look at how many activities require intense commitment and even jeopardize the assistance of one at Sunday Mass with travel and even athletic events being scheduled on Sundays with no regards to the Lord's Day as the priority.  I hope to never, ever go through a period again where coming home late from a campout on a Sunday means not finding the late afternoon or evening Mass (hopefully I'll be with or near a priest and if not, I can be back early on Sunday!). What a horrible thought.

That isn't to say one can't play on Sundays. In fact, it's quite the contrary. I believe recreation is to be encouraged on Sundays when one's spiritual obligations have been met and hopefully then some. Nothing like a good game of rugby or American football on Sundays, since I'm not an auld Kirker!

But we should remember that on Calvary Our Lord offered His entire Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity for the salvation of the world as He hung upon the sweet wood with the sweet nails. Assistance at Mass on days of obligation should lead us in time to an increase in faith, hope, and charity so that we might place these cluttering things from our lives in proper proportion to our love of God and neighbor.

On those days that are not of obligation, we should learn and remember to pray. I read that if we pray five times a day and live to the age of 78, we'll spend far less time praying than doing anything else. Sleeping, eating, other work which can be transformed into God's work but all too easily we forget to ask Him to do so.  (At least...) the Conventual Franciscans (the order of St. Maximilian Kolbe!) have a tradition of praying the Pater Noster on the half-hour.What a good practice. The Jesus prayer would be a good prayer to say early and often as well.

If we aren't spending our time in formal prayer, then we should learn to participate in social activities that help us love our neighbor better or partake in individual activities such as reading or letter-writing, away from the Internet and the TV. Just a cultural thought, and anyways.

If our lives are not centered on love, then we miss the purpose of them, which is to know, love, and serve God in this life, so we can be with Him in the next.

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