By Sr Bernadette M. Reis, fsp
“In these days there's so much suffering. There's a lot of fear.” Pope Francis’ thus began the Sacred Liturgy which he offered in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday morning. Then he went on:
“The fear of the elderly who are alone in nursing homes, or hospitals, or in their own homes, and don't know what will happen. The fear of those who don’t have regular jobs and are thinking about how to feed their children. They foresee they may go hungry. The fear of many civil servants. At this moment they're working to keep society functioning and they might get sick. There’s also the fear, the fears, of each one of us. Each one knows what their own fears are. We pray to the Lord that He might help us to trust, and to tolerate and conquer these fears.”
During his homily, he reflected on how idolatry affects all of our lives. He based his thoughts on the first reading from Exodus 32:7-14.
From the Living God to idols
Pope Francis explained how the chosen people turned into idolaters. They lose patience waiting for Moses to return from the mountain. They “get bored”, the Pope said. A “nostalgia for idolatry” overtakes them.
“It was a true apostasy. From the Living God to idolatry….not knowing how to wait for the Living God. This nostalgia is an illness, which is ours. We begin to walk enthusiastically toward freedom, but then the complaining begins: ‘This is really difficult. It's a desert. I’m thirsty. I want water. I want meat… In Egypt we ate good things. There's nothing here’ ”.
Idolatry is selective
The Pope then described how idolatry is “selective”. “It makes you think of the good things that it gives you. But it doesn't allow you to see the bad things”, he said. The chosen people remembered all the good things that were on their tables when they were in Egypt. “But they forgot that it was the table of slavery”, Pope Francis pointed out.
Idolatry takes everything
Idolaters lose everything, the Pope continued. The chosen people handed over all of their gold and silver to make the golden calf. They constructed the golden calf with gifts God had given to them. It was He who had to ask the Egyptians for their gold before they took flight.
“This mechanism also happens to us. When we do things that lead us to idolatry, we become attached to things that distance us from God. We make another god with the gifts that the Lord has given us: with our intelligence, our will, our love, our heart. We use God’s very gifts to make idols.”
Idols in our hearts
The crucifixes or images of Our Lady that we have in our houses are not our idols. “They are in our hearts”, the Pope said. Each of us should ask ourselves what idols we have hidden in our hearts. Idolatry can even affect our prayer. After all, the chosen people wanted to worship the idol they made. One way we do this is by changing “the celebration of a sacrament into a secular celebration”, the Pope suggested.
The question today
“What are my idols?” “Where do I hide them?” These are the questions to ask ourselves today, the Pope said, concluding his homily.
“May the Lord not find us at the end of our lives and say to us: ‘You apostasised. You deviated from the way that I marked out. You prostrated yourself before an idol’. We ask the Lord for the grace of recognizing our own idols.”