Monday of the Seventeenth Week of the Year I
Sins of idolatry and faithlessness are not as remote from us as they may seem. We may not fashion golden calves for ourselves, as did Aaron and the children of Israel, but we are tempted, nonetheless, to seek substitutes for God whenever we feel that He is distant, absent, or not looking.
The Practice of the Presence of God
This is why our holy father Saint Benedict and all the saints so insist on the practice of the presence of God. God is not distant from us, we are alienated from ourselves. God is not absent from our lives, we are absent from our own hearts. The eye of God is ever upon us, but we have roving eyes, ever in search of something to satisfy the cravings of the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we find something that appears to satisfy our itch for novelty, we place it on pedestal. We make it an idol.
Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel has been quoted as saying that the most corrosive thing in religious life over the past forty years has been the television. I agree with him. A community’s capacity for prayer and, especially, for adoration, is directly affected by its intake of television. There are religious who have no problem spending two hours or more in front of the secular altar of television; the same religious balk at being asked to spend two hours or more in adoration before the altar where Christ is really present. Idolatry.
Theologian Romano Amerio, a theologian at the Second Vatican Council, writes:
The television that daily prints the same images in millions of brains
and returns the next day to overprint others in the same brains like a sheet of paper printed on a thousand times, is the most powerful organ of intellectual corruption in the contemporary world. Nonetheless I will not deny that from those enormous antennae that send out across the world influences more powerful than those of the stars in the celestial spheres, there may come some slight influence that may accidentally be of use to religion. But I do deny that these scraps can legitimate the habitual and uncontrolled use of such technology or become the norm by which to shape the rhythms of religious life. One cannot but be amazed! Certain communities have abandoned the centuries old custom of reciting the night office in church so as to be able to watch television programs that clashed with the keeping of their rule.
Identify Your Idols
There are other forms of idolatry too. Each of us builds little shrines to secret idols, and then adorns them with votive offerings. Look into your heart. Identify your idols. And pray for the courage to smash them, to grind them into powder, as Moses did the golden calf. Make a clean sweep of idolatrous pursuits and you will be amazed at all the time that suddenly becomes available for holy reading and for prayer.
One should never denounce a sin in oneself or in others without identifying the virtue or instrument of good work opposed to it. What is the life-giving practice opposed to the deadening sin of idolatry? It is adoration. Adoration is the undoing of idolatry.
Using One Nail to Drive Out Another
Souls sometimes have great difficulty detaching themselves from their little idols. They have lived their lives around them for so long that they fear finding themselves, all of a sudden, without them. There are souls who cannot bring themselves to give up certain sins. What to do? In that case, Saint Bernard says that one nail must be driven out by another nail. Do not attack the idol head on; your resolve may weaken. You may say, “Just one more day. Instead, adopt Saint Bernard’s tactic. Leave the idol alone and begin practicing the opposite virtue.
Give more time to adoration each day, and after a while, you will be surprised to see that the idol has melted away. It isn’t always wise to try to smash an idol. Sometimes, one should simply ignore it. Ignored, it will fade into the nothingness out of which it came.
Saint Peter Julian’s Eight Days
Saint Peter Julian Eymard, whom we will celebrate this coming Thursday, says that eight days are enough to bring about a conversion of life. Eight days to pass from a life of petty idolatries to a life of adoration! Listen to the saint:
The secret for arriving quickly at a life centred in the Eucharist is, during a certain period of time, to make Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament the habitual object of the exercise of the presence of God, the dominant motive of our intentions, the meditation of our spirit, the affection of our heart, the object of all our virtues. And if the soul is generous enough, one will come at length to this unity of action, to familiarity with the adorable Sacrament, to think of it with as much and even greater ease than of any other object. Easily and gently one’s heart will produce the most tender affections. In a word, the Most Holy Sacrament will become the magnet of devotion in one’s life and the centre of perfection of one’s love. Eight days would be enough for a simple and fervent soul to acquire this Eucharistic spirit; and even if one should have to put weeks and months to acquire it, can this ever be compared with the peace and the happiness which this soul will enjoy in the Divine Eucharist?
Idolators or adorers? What shall we become? How shall we finish our days? The choice is ours. God deliver us from idols! God deliver us into the grace of adoration!