“I am the Lord, your God… You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3).
Pope Francis reflected on the first Commandment in his catechesis at the Wednesday General Audience on August 1, 2018, saying idolatry is a very real and current temptation.
“The commandment prohibits the making of idols or images of any sort. We are talking about a human tendency, which spares neither believers nor atheists.”
The Pope, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2113), said idolatry “consists in divinizing what is not God.” He invited Christians to ask ourselves:
“What is really my God? Is it the One and Triune Love, or is it my own image, my personal success, even within the Church?”
Pope Francis said an idol is a “vision” that tends to become an obsession. “An idol is really a projection of the self onto an object or a project.”
He said advertising uses this dynamic to turn a car or a smartphone into “a way to respond to my existential needs” and to be happy.
Sacrifices to idols
Pope Francis said that, when everything in our lives is focused only on that object or idol, we become slaves.
“In ancient times human sacrifices were made to idols,” he said, “but even today people sacrifice their children for their careers, neglecting them or simply refusing to have them.”
He said idols require blood.
“Money robs us of life, and pleasure leads to loneliness. Economic structures sacrifice human lives for better profits. One lives in hypocrisy, doing and saying what others expect of us, because the god of self-affirmation imposes it. And lives are ruined; families are destroyed; and young people are abandoned to destructive habits, all to increase profit.”
Love vs. idolatry
God, said Pope Francis, “never requires life but gives it. The true God doesn’t offer a projection of our success, but teaches us to love.” Rather than asking us to sacrifice our children, he said, “God gives his Son for us.”
Finally, Pope Francis said God teaches us to live day-to-day rather than letting false idols deceive us into hoping only in the future.
Recognizing our tendency toward idolatry, “places us on the path towards love”, the Pope said.
“Love is incompatible with idolatry.”