Homily for January 9th, 2016: 1 John 5:14-21.
“Children, be on your guard against idols,” we heard at the end of the first reading. It’s probably safe to say that idols hardly appear on the radar screens of most Catholics. Catholics who live in the Bible-belt are aware that fundamentalist Protestants charge us with idolatry because we have statues in our churches, and because of the prayers we say in front of those statues. Such charges don’t bother us because we know that we don’t worship the statues. Idolatry may have been an issue in Bible times, we assume, but not today. That is dead wrong. Idolatry means putting anything at all in the place that belongs only to God. Here are some examples.
People who live for thrills are worshipping the false god of pleasure. The American novelist Ernest Hemingway is an example. He lived for thrills: the excitement of battle in the Spanish Civil War, bullfighting in
four marriages and goodness know how many affairs, big game hunting in Africa. The person who lives for thrills and pleasure can
never be never fully satisfied. Is it so surprising that Hemingway end by
blowing his brains out?
People who center their lives on making money are worshipping the false god of possessions. “How much is enough?” a millionaire was asked. “Always just a little more,” he replied. Another very rich man said: “Anyone who thinks that having a lot of money will make you happy has never had a lot of money.”
We’ve all heard of control freaks. They are worshiping the false god of power. They too are frustrated, because they can never get enough power. Finally there is the false god of honor. An example: Jesus’ disciples arguing at the Last Supper over “who should be greatest” (Luke 2:24). I’m sorry to tell you, folks: that argument is still going on. Last year Pope Francis tried to discourage it by virtually eliminating the honorific title of Monsignor. Good luck, Holy Father!
Friends, we’re not Puritans. Each of these things – pleasure, possessions, power, and honor – is good. They become bad only when we center our lives on them. Then they produce unhappiness and frustration. Because we can never get enough. There is only One who can answer our prayers. “He hears us,” our first reading says. The false gods cannot hear us: they are deaf, dumb, and blind.
I leave you then with two questions. Are you directing your prayers to the one true God? Are you centering your life on Him?