4 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 there is a growing group of devilish people in our society today who distract and divert Catholics from the teachings of the church. Just as the serpent tempted our ancestors with the forbidden fruit, there are some people 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 simple-minded”(Rom.16: 17-18). Especially vulnerable are those of our women folk who have no deep understanding about the Bible or the basic teachings of the Catholic Church and fall prey to the false interpretations of this evil group. It is very easy for these women to influence the men and 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 to individuals or objects, which is due only to God, 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, “Idolatory not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatory consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatory whenever he honors 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 worship rejects Christ’s unequal authority; that is 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, are 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: 4:17onwards) 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 3rd and 4th 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 tumors 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 respect and adore 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 honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it’. The honor 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 up an image of my maternal grandfather, from memory, and placed it at a prominent place on one of the walls of the house. This picture is looked upon 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 patients touched  articles he used- like handkerchiefs or aprons that touched his skin, they obtained healing (Acts 19:11-12). The word says, the shadow of St.Peter had the 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. When these saints lived for Christ in this world won’t God honour them in heaven also?

Who has the power to interpret the Bible?
Just because a person is an Indian doesn’t give him the licence to authoritatively interpret the Indian Constitution; but there are authorized and qualified people for that job. Moreover, if an ordinary Indian does aspire to interpret the Constitution it is not necessary that others must accept it. So also, the banks rules and regulations are not to be interpreted by you, me or anyone who goes there to deposit money. There are responsible people at the bank who knows every aspect of those rules. You cannot interpret 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 has a copy of this Holy Bible and interprets it as their personal property to suit their personal agenda and misguide the simple-minded, is in fact indulging in the greatest idol worship!

Written by Fr. Joseph Edattu V.C.