Pagan worship

Pagan Worship - Pope Francis         

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Today the Church invites us to reflect on the journey from paganism and idolatry to the living God, and also on the journey from the living God to idolatry.

The Gospel tells us that, in turning to Jesus, the woman is “brave”, like any “desperate mother” who would do anything “for the health of their child”. “She had been told that there was a good man, a prophet, and so she went to look for Jesus, even though she “did not believe in the God of Israel”. For the sake of her daughter “she was not ashamed of how she might look before the Apostles”, who might say amongst themselves “what is this pagan doing here?”. She approached Jesus to beg him to help her daughter who was possessed by an unclean spirit. But Jesus responds to her request saying “I came first for the sheep of the house of Israel”. He “speaks with harsh words”, saying: “Let the children help themselves first, because it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs”.

The woman — who certainly had never attended university — did not respond to Jesus with intelligence, but instead with a mother's gut, with love. She said: “Even the dogs under the table will eat the children’s crumbs”, as if to say: “Give these crumbs to me!”. Moved by her
faith, “the Lord worked a miracle”. She returned home, found her daughter lying on her bed, and the demon was gone.

Essentially, it is the story of a mother who risked making a fool of herself, but still insisted out of love for her daughter. She left “paganism and idolatry, and found health for her daughter” and, for herself she “found the living God”. Hers is “the way of a person of good will, who
seeks God and finds him”. For her faith, “the Lord blesses her”. This is also the story of so many people who still “make this journey”. “The Lord waits for” these people, who are moved by the Holy Spirit. “There are people who make this journey every day in the Church of God, silently seeking the Lord”, because they “let themselves be carried forward by the Holy Spirit”.

However, there is also “the opposite path”, which is represented by the figure of Solomon, “the wisest man on earth, who had received many great blessings; he had inherited a united country, the union that his father David had made”. King Solomon had “universal fame”, he had “complete power”. He was also “a believer in God”. So why did he
lose his faith? The answer lies in the biblical passage: “His women made him divert his heart to follow other gods, and his heart did not remain with the Lord, his God, as the heart of David his father did”. 

Solomon liked women. He had many concubines and would travel with them here and there: each with her own god, her own idol. “These women slowly weakened Solomon’s heart”. He, therefore, “lost the integrity” of the faith. When one woman would ask him for a small temple for “her god”, he would build it on a mountain. And when another woman would ask him for incense to burn for an idol, he would buy it. In doing so “his heart was weakened and he lost his faith”.

"The wisest man in the world” lost his faith this way. Solomon allowed himself to become corrupt because of an indiscreet love, without discretion, because of his passions. Yet, you might say: “But Father, Solomon did not lose his faith, he still believed in God, he could recite the Bible” from memory. Having faith does not mean being able to recite the Creed: you can still recite the Creed after having lost your faith!.

Solomon, was a sinner in the beginning like his father David. But then he continued living as a sinner and became corrupt: his heart was corrupted by idolatry. His father David was a sinner, but the Lord had forgiven all of his sins because he was humble and asked for forgiveness. Instead, Solomon’s “vanity and passions led” him to “corruption”. For, the Pope explained, “the heart is precisely the place where you can lose your faith”.

The king, therefore, takes the opposite path than that of the Syro-Phoenician woman: "she leaves the idolatry of paganism and comes to find the living God”, while Solomon instead “left the living God and finds idolatry": what a poor man! She was a sinner, sure, just as we all are. But he was corrupt.

I hope that “no evil seed will grow” in the human heart. It was the seed of evil passions, growing in Solomon’s heart that led him to idolatry. To prevent this seed from developing: “Receive with meekness the Word that has been planted in you and it can lead you to salvation”. With this knowledge, we follow the path of the Canaanite woman, the pagan woman, accepting the Word of God, which was planted in us and will lead us to salvation. The Word of God is powerful, and it will safeguard us on the path and prevent us from the destruction of corruption and all that leads to idolatry.



Pope Francis     01.08.18    General Audience  Paul VI Audience Hall       Catechesis on the Commandments         Exodus 20: 3-5 
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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 pause on the theme of idolatry which is significant and timely.

The commandment bans us from setting up idols[1] or images[2] of any kind of reality[3]. Indeed, everything can be used as an idol. We are speaking about a human tendency that involves both believers and atheists. For example, we Christians can ask ourselves: who is truly my God? Is it the One and Triune Love or is it my image, my personal success, perhaps even within the Church? “Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2113).

What is a “god” on the existential plane? It is what is at the centre of one’s life and on whom one’s actions and thoughts depend.[4] One can grow up in a family that is Christian in name but that is actually centred on reference points that are foreign to the Gospel.[5] Human beings cannot live without being centred on something. And so the world offers the ‘supermarket’ of idols, which can be objects, images, ideas and roles. For example, even prayer. We must pray to God, our Father. I remember one day I had gone to a parish in the Diocese of Buenos Aires to celebrate Mass and after that, I had to celebrate Confirmation in another parish that was a kilometre away. I went on foot and I walked across a beautiful park. But in that park, there were over 50 tables with two chairs each, and people were seated facing each other. What were they doing? Tarot cards. They went there “to pray” to their idol. Instead of praying to God who is the Providence of the future, they went there to have their fortunes told, to see the future. This is one form of the idolatry of our times. I ask you: how many of you have gone to have your cards read to see the future? How many of you, for example, have gone to have your hands read to see the future instead of praying to the Lord? This is the difference: the Lord is alive. The others are idols, forms of idolatry that are unnecessary.

How does idolatry develop? The commandment describes the various phases: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness ... you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex 20:4-5).

The word ‘idol’ in Greek is derived from the verb ‘to see’.[6] An idol is a ‘vision’ which has the tendency to become a fixation, an obsession. The idol in reality is a projection of self onto objects or projects. Advertising, for example, uses this dynamic: I cannot see the object itself but I can perceive that car, that smartphone, that role — or other things — as a means of fulfilling myself and responding to my basic needs. And I seek it out, I speak of it, I think of it: the idea of owning that object or fulfilling that project, reaching that position, seems a marvelous path to happiness, a tower with which to reach the heavens (cf. Gen 11:1-19), and then everything serves that goal.

We then enter the second phase: “You shall not bow down to them”. Idols need worship, certain rituals: one bows down and sacrifices everything to them. In ancient times, there were human sacrifices to idols, but today too: children are sacrificed for a career, or neglected or, quite simply, not conceived. Beauty demands human sacrifices. How many hours are spent in front of the mirror! How much do some people, some women, spend on makeup? This too is idolatry. It is not bad to wear makeup but in a normal way, not to become a goddess. Beauty demands human sacrifices. Fame demands the immolation of self, of one’s innocence and authenticity. Idols demand blood. Money robs one of life, and pleasure leads to loneliness. Economic structures sacrifice human life for greater profit. Let us think of unemployed people. Why? Because at times the businessmen of that company, of that firm have decided to lay off those people in order to earn more money. The idol of money. We live in hypocrisy, doing and saying what others expect because the god of one’s self affirmation imposes it. And lives are ruined, families are destroyed and young people are left prey to destructive models in order to increase profit. Drugs too are idols. How many young people ruin their health, even their lives, by worshipping the idol of drugs?

And here we come to the third and most tragic phase: and you shall not serve them, he says. Idols enslave. They promise happiness but do not deliver it and we find ourselves living for that thing or that vision, drawn into 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 demand life but gives it, as a gift. The true God does not offer a projection of our success but teaches us how to love. The true God does not demand children but gives his Son for us. Idols project future hypotheses and make us despise the present. The true God teaches how to live in everyday reality, in a practical way, 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 fluidity of idols. Today, I invite you to think: how many idols do I have and which one is my favourite? Because recognizing one’s own forms of idolatry is the beginning of grace and puts one on the path of love. Indeed love is incompatible with idolatry. If something becomes absolute and supreme, then it is more important than a spouse, than a child or a friendship. Being attached to an object or an idea makes one blind to love. And so, in order to pursue idols, one idol, one can even renounce a father, a mother, children, a wife, a husband, a family ... the dearest things of all. Being attached to an object or an idea makes us blind to love. Take this to heart: idols rob us of love, idols make us blind to love and, in order to truly love, we must be free from all idols.

What is my idol? Remove it and throw it out of the window!


Pope Francis        29.11.18    Holy Mass Santa Marta        Revelation 18: 1,2, 21-23, 19: 1-3, 9A ,        Luke 21: 20-28
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-11/pope-francis-mass-christian-societies-end-if-pagan.html

On the day of judgment, Babylon will be destroyed with a mighty cry of victory. The great harlot will fall, condemned by the Lord, and she will show her truth: “a haunt for demons, a cage for every unclean spirit.”

Corruption will be revealed under her magnificent beauty and that her feasts will be exposed as false happiness.

"The melodies of musicians, harpists, flutists, and trumpeters will never be heard in you again. There will be no more beautiful feasts… Craftsmen of every type will never be found in you again; because you are not a city of work but of corruption. The sound of the millstone will not be heard in you again; no lamplight will be seen in you again. The city may be illuminated, but she will be without light, not luminous. Hers is a corrupt society – the voices of brides and grooms will never be heard in you again." There were many couples, many people, but there will no longer be any love. This destruction starts from within and ends when the Lord says: ‘Enough’. And there will come a day when the Lord says: ‘Enough with the appearances of this world.’ This is the crisis of a society that sees itself as proud, self-sufficient, dictatorial, and it ends in this manner.

Jerusalem will see her ruin, in another type of corruption, the corruption that comes from unfaithfulness to love; she was not able to recognize the love of God in His Son.

The holy city will be trampled underfoot by pagans and punished by the Lord, because she opened the doors of her heart to pagans.

The paganization of life can occur, in our case the Christian life. Do we live as Christians? It seems like we do. But really our life is pagan, when these things happen: when we are seduced by Babylon and Jerusalem lives like Babylon. The two seek a synthesis which cannot be effected. And both are condemned. Are you a Christian? Are you Christian? Live like a Christian. Water and oil do not mix. They are always distinct. A contradictory society that professes Christianity but lives like a pagan shall end.

After the condemnation of the two cities, the voice of the Lord will be heard: Salvation follows destruction. And the Angel said: ‘Come: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ The great feast; the true feast.

Faced with the tragedies of life, we are called to look to the horizon, because we have been redeemed and the Lord will come to save us. This teaches us to live the trials of the world, not in a compromise with worldliness or paganism which brings about our destruction, but in hope, separating ourselves from this worldly and pagan seduction by looking to the horizon and hoping in Christ the Lord. Hope is our strength for moving forward. But we must ask it of the Holy Spirit.

Think about the Babylonians of our time and about the many powerful empires of the last century which have fallen.

The
great cities of today will also end, and so will our lives, if we continue along this road towards paganism.

The only ones who will remain are those who place their hope in the Lord. Let us open our hearts with hope and distance ourselves from the paganization of life.