IDOLATRY: The definition of an idol might be the following: “Placing any person, place or thing, or even idea above God.” In the time of Moses there was the danger of worshipping the Golden Calf, which Moses destroyed. In his anger Moses also destroyed the tablets of the Law, the Ten Commandments.
Today the society is full of modern idols and the primary reason is because we have forgotten God, or pushed God aside as irrelevant, or to be relegated to something or someone unimportant.
In a word, the whole concept of idolatry goes directly against the first and most basic of the Ten Commandments in which we are commanded to love God totally, not partially. Indeed, if we make the choice in our lives to love God totally with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, then we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Read Luke 10: 30-37). This will be a solid foundation on which to build so we can really strive with every fiber of our being to live out the other commandments.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE. Therefore, let us make a serious examination of our lives to see if we are guilty of some form of modern idolatry and make some changes in our lives. Jesus’s first words in His Public life were: “Be converted because the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk. 1:15)
1. Do I spend too much time looking in the mirror every morning? Vanity! Yes, this is the mirror of vanity, wanting to inflate my self-image and importance.
2. DRESSES/CLOTHES. Perhaps I have already decided to skip Mass today so that I can “shop until I drop!” So many people in the world are dying of hunger and sleeping in bags underneath a bridge and I want to buy another dress to add to my 50!!! Would it not be better to start giving some of the “extras” to the poor? Would not this be more pleasing to God?
3. Almost at the beginning of his Papacy, Pope Francis warned of the danger of placing cosmetics on a very high pedestal. This Pope, who chose Saint Francis as his model, was warning us not to spend exorbitant amounts of money on cosmetics when countless numbers of children are dying of hunger daily! The person has much more value than the thing!
4. Black Friday is famous for people waiting in long lines to stampede a store and buy at the best price gifts for Christmas already! Our possessions can possess us! How often do we give things more value than persons! Eric Fromm put it this way: “If you are what you have, and you lose what you have, then who are you???”
5. IMMODESTY IN DRESS. With respect to dress, if a woman or man is dressing in a provocative way, then this too can be a form of modern idolatry, and indeed a temptation and source for someone else to fall into sin! Saint Paul reminds us to respect our bodies because they are temples of the Holy Spirit!
6. It’s the weekend and it’s “Miller time!” Could it be that you are really obsessed with alcohol? As you work are you thinking about coming home, hanging out with friends, and just guzzling it down to the point of getting drunk? Stop and examine your conscience. Will this help your marriage? Will this help you to be a better father? Will this better your relationship with God? If not, it is time to change before it is too late! It is no longer “Miller Time”; rather it is time for God and family!
7. Of course one of the most common idols over the past 40-50 years has been the television. More than 200 years ago Saint Elizabeth Anne Seton had a vision of a black box that would enter into American family households and end up by splitting and destroying the families. Could this so called BLACK BOX have been the television? What do you think? Individuals and families can spend so much time in front of this object that there is no longer any dialogue and communication in the family!
8. MARIJUANA. Even though this has been legalized in the State of California it does not mean that it is moral. Sad to say, this will increase the number of young people, as well as old, taking it and becoming addicted to it.
9. EATING. Of course another modern idol is that of eating and falling into the sin of gluttony—eating constantly, eating too much, and eating unhealthy foods. This idol is so easy to fall into simply because of the presence and availability of so much food that can be acquired at relatively low prices! Would you consider yourself a glutton? Saint Paul warns us not to adore the god of the belly!
10. Absolutely nothing wrong with sports. Actually engaging our youth in sports is very wholesome and healthy. However, if it is such that playing sports or viewing sports pushes God out of our weekend because there is no time for attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then sports has become an idol too!
11. BARS/NIGHT CLUBS. A very sad but pervasive reality is the spreading of the so called Night Club. This indeed is the idol of many. There is really no need for an explanation because we all have an inner sense that these are places of utter perdition, though well-frequented by both men and women. This is a modern Golden Calf adored by many.
12. Another modern idol is the addiction to the CASINO! This idol has spread far and wide, damaging many lives and with this many families. The addiction can become very strong and utterly devastating.
13. PSYCHIC READERS AND TELLERS. This can become a god to many—truly a modern idol. Absorbed with many problems, instead of turning to God for help and trusting in God’s Divine and Providential care, many turn to these so called “Psychic Readers” who read palms, tarot cards, and look into the crystal ball to predict the future, side-stepping the true help that comes from God alone. This can truly be an idol.
14. Many trust in signs in the skies rather than the Lord who created heaven and earth—once again, the possibility of idolatry. We are reminded of the Psalmist who says: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” Even the great writer Shakespeare warns us: “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Moral failure is our own doing, not some chance happening provoked by some star or constellation.
15. SATANISM AND DEVIL WORSHIP. Satanic groups are sprouting up even in elementary schools! Also certain statues and monuments have been erected paying tribute to the devil in latter years. One cannot serve God and mammon or God and the devil at the same time. In the beginning Lucifer cried out: “I will not serve!” (Meaning, “I will not serve God!”) His clarion call of rebellion can still be heard loud and clear. Idolatry is rebellion against listening to the voice of God in our lives.
16. CULT OF THE “SANTA MUERTE!”—This indeed is idolatry in which its followers follow the enemy and worship the god of “Death.” Jesus is not the God of the dead, rather He is the God of the living!
17. CULT OF ANIMALS AND PETS. Now this is a tough one! No doubt animals and pets can be great companions, especially in the lives of the elderly or people who live alone and have to cope with loneliness. However, if it is such that animals are sent to hospitals at huge exorbitant fees—in fact thousands and thousands of dollars are spent on these animals—and at the same time children are dying of hunger all over the world, there is something out of place, out of order. This too can be an idol!
18. TELEPHONE AND INTERNET. Most obviously use of the telephone with access to the internet, as well as use of the internet itself by whatever means, lends itself to exaggeration. This can be a topic of much more detailed comment. But leave it at this: the telephone with internet access has become for many the number one idol in their lives! Many spouses spend much more time on their phones than communicating with each other. Once again: idolatry!
19. PORN… The most powerful addiction in the modern world is that of pornography! This indeed is GOLDEN CALF # 1!!! Much more can be said on this devastating reality! Indeed, many men, women, teens and even children are becoming slaves to this idol!
20. PAST MEMORIES OF PAST LOVERS!!! Married persons cannot cling to memories of past boyfriends/girlfriends. Not only can this be idolatry, it can also be a form of mental, emotional or sentimental adultery! Beware of the many enemies lurking about seeking the destruction of our souls!
In conclusion, make a very honest, sincere assessment and examination of your daily life to see if one or even many of these idols have been enthroned on the altar and center of your life! If so, now is the time to dethrone and decapitate these false gods, these golden calves and enthrone Jesus as the Lord, God and King of your whole existence!
Father Ed Broom, OMV, is Associate Pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. He is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and was ordained by Saint John Paul II on May 25, 1986. Fr. Ed teaches Catholic Ignatian Marian Spirituality through articles, podcasts, a radio show, retreats and spiritual direction.