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Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"I dwell with the crushed and the dejected“ (Is 57:15) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

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Are Catholics idol worshippers?

By Fr. Joseph Edattu VC

The original sin of our forefathers was to suspect and break the commandments of Almighty God, when they listened to the tempting advice of Satan in the form of a serpent. Using the same intelligent and crafty means, a growing group of conniving people distract and divert Catholics from the teachings of the church. Just as the serpent tempted our ancestors with the forbidden fruit, there are some amongst us who use the ‘fruit’ of ‘idol worship’ to misguide some of our unsuspecting brethren.  St. Paul denounces such people: “I urge you sisters and brothers to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses in opposition to the teachings that you have learnt; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but serve their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the hearts of the simpleminded” (Rom.16: 17-18). Especially vulnerable are our women folk who have no deep understanding of the Bible or the basic teachings of the Catholic Church and fall prey to these false interpretations. It is very easy for women to influence men and the others in the household. This is exactly what the serpent did to our ancestors. Hence St. Paul wrote: “For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth”(2 Timothy 3: 6-7)

What is idol worship?

“And they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles” (Romans 1:23). If you offer worship or praise - which is due only to God - to individuals or objects, it becomes idol worship. To do this, there is no need for an ‘idol’. St. Paul compares the urge for material wealth to idol worship. “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)” (Col.3:5)

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2113, “Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinising what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honours and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, Satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’”.

Idol worshippers reject Christ’s unequal authority; if Christ is seen as one among the many other Gods or one among many Prophets, it is idol worship. All terrorist activities in the name of religion, caste, language, state and political parties are idol worship. All struggles for the sake of name and fame, and all propaganda about one’s own family traditions and own family’s nobility, is just plain idol worship.

Is it wrong to manufacture idols?

Moses warns the Israelites not to make idols in, “the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air...creeps on the ground...any fish...”(Deut: 4:17 onwards) or other forms for worship and make themselves impure. Exodus 20: 4-5 commands, “You shall not make for yourself an idol whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water underneath. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me”. What is contained in these words are not about making idols as such, but rather exhorting us not to worship them or venerate them.

If God was really telling us ‘not to make idols’, then why would God order Moses to make a bronze serpent and hoist it on a pole? Why did God order, “ they shall make an ark of acacia wood ; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside. You shall overlay it and you shall make a moulding of gold upon it all round...”  (Exo. 25:10). Again, why did God say : “ So you must make images of your tumours and images of your mice that ravage the land and give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will lighten his hand on you and your gods and your lands” (1 Sam.6:5). Is it not the same God who warned not to make idols and images who said these things?  Is it not the same God who showered blessings on those who came to worship in the synagogue where images of angels adorned the walls? This proves that God has not barred the manufacture of idols; rather, His commandment was not to make idols with the idea of worshipping them as God.

No Catholic who has some basic knowledge of the Church’s teaching will worship any idol. He cannot worship an idol. When Catholics kneel down before the image of a saint, or put a garland around it, or burn candles before it, they are not worshipping that image, but respecting the person represented by that image. According to CCC 2132, “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, ‘the honour rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it’. The honour paid to sacred images is a ‘respectful veneration’, not the adoration due to God alone”.

I have not seen my mother’s father. But my uncle, who is an artist, has drawn an image of my maternal grandfather, from memory, and placed it on a wall in our house. This picture is looked at with great respect by all concerned. If this picture of our beloved grandfather is placed at a prominent place in our house, and accorded a lot of respect, why can’t we put up images of our saints and holy men who are very dear to God and the church globally? Why can’t we preserve the memory of these saints? They have not committed any crime to prevent them from being remembered! Is preserving the relics of saints, and through that receiving healing from grave illnesses, idol worship? We preserve with great care photographs and objects used by them during their lifetime. This is because of our love for them. The saints have power to grant healing through their intercession. When we touch those articles used by them, with faith and trust, we invoke their intercession. For this very reason, in the absence of St. Paul, when the sick touched  things he had used – such as handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin, they obtained healing (Acts 19:11-12). The word says, the shadow of St. Peter had healing power (Acts: 5:15). In fact, it is not the power of the shadow of St. Peter or the articles used by St. Paul, but it reflects the intercessory powers of these saints. These saints lived for Christ in this world; wouldn’t God honour them in heaven too?

Just being an Indian doesn’t give one the licence to authoritatively interpret the Indian Constitution; there are authorised and qualified people for that job. If an ordinary Indian aspires to interpret the Constitution, it is not necessary that others must accept it. You cannot interpret banking or traffic rules according to your convenience; there are authorities responsible for that job. In the same way, the Holy Bible is given to us by the church after prolonged studies and interpretation for the specific purpose of study and meditation for the faithful to grow in faith. Anyone who interprets the Holy Bible to suit their own personal agenda and misguide the innocent, is in fact indulging in the greatest idol worship!

Divine Updates

39th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 19 - 24, 2019

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2019

Hindi Convention Ojas 2019

The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our ninth Hindi convention, in 2019. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults and another for couples and youth. All are welcome.

Date: May 26 - May 31, 2019

POWER 2019 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 14th International Youth Conference - POWER 2019. The very best international preachers and gospel bands will be here to lead us into worship. Be there to experience a totally different atmosphere of prayer. A Couples' Retreat and a Kids' Retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 21 - July 26, 2019

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2019. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - or Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2019 - December, 2019

Potta Convention 2019

Potta-Divine's annual Potta Convention will be held at the Potta Ashram, this February. The convention will be led by stalwarts in the Catholic Charismatic ministry. Please come and be blessed beyond measure. All are welcome.

Date: Feb 20 -24, 2019

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