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  • Father David M. Knight

“Idolatry” Means Dividedness

March 23, 2017

Thursday, Lent Week Three

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“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” This Responsorial (Psalm 95) is a “survival principle!

God tells Jeremiah (7: 23-28) that from the day the people left Egypt until now he has “sent untiringly” prophets to guide them. But they won’t listen. And, “when you speak… they will not listen to you either!” Do we?

Isn’t God’s word constantly available to us? Can’t we pick up the Bible any time we want? Aren’t the “prophets” preaching every Sunday? Every day, even, for those at daily Mass? Don’t children have parents and teachers, and all of us friends God uses to help us? Do we listen?

God’s conclusion is sobering: “Faithfulness has disappeared. The word itself is banished from their speech.”

The word is “commitment.” How often is it used? Does it stop divorces? Does the commitment of Baptism (the most radical in human life) stop people from giving up Mass, leaving the Church? Are we conscious of breaking our commitment, our covenant with God, when we sin? God’s self-description is “steadfast love.” Is “steadfast” the word that characterizes our pledged love?

It could be. Would be, God suggests, if we would just “Listen to my voice.” If we would just read his word with open minds and hearts, everything could be different for us. Discipleship “works.”

In Luke 11: 14-23 Jesus identifies another problem; the root problem, really. The Scriptural word for it is “idolatry,” which we no longer understand.

“Idolatry” means dividedness. It is the contrary of the First Commandment:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

“All” means all. One hundred percent. Nothing left over. If we are committed to God as God — to the One God as “Lord alone” — we have made an all-inclusive choice. No other choices can call it into question. Anything that does is an “idol.” A false god. A created value we have made comparable, even if not equal, to God. Comparable enough for us to compare them and choose between them. If “Thy will be done” is not absolute for us; if it does not pre-determine every choice, we are idolaters. To some degree, we all are.

God’s answer was to send his Son. The practical answer to idolatry is to make an idol of Jesus: but a true one. Christianity “works” if we make the person of Jesus our abiding focus. Religion itself can offer idols. We can divide our devotion between various doctrines, laws and practices. We can lose Jesus in our focus on prayers to say, devotions to follow, practices to observe. We can be loyal or disloyal to popes, priests and bishops without connecting to Jesus. They can command and preach without referring to him. This gives “aid and comfort” to idolatry. Jesus says, “whoever does not gather with me scatters.” “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Initiative: Narrow your focus to Jesus. Then broaden it to include everything else.

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