I think that the Old Testament gets a bad rap. People typically typecast it as being a collection of books that merely puts people on a guilt trip. But does it really? The Church would say no and the main argument here is that Jesus is found implicitly throughout its pages. He is born as a result of the Old Testament prophecy. Once born, He would quote the Old Testament freely, signifying by such an action how important the Old Testament was and is to Him. Of particular importance is when Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple as a young man explaining Scriptures to the leading men of the temple. Then, and throughout His life, He would indicate that, at best, people then (and now) basically misunderstood good parts of the Old Testament.
I’ve always wondered about that, -the extent in which we may understand the Old Testament. For us today it makes sense to see this question embracing the New Testament as well. However, let’s stick to the Old Testament for this reflection. I have wondered about the extent the Old Testament is misunderstood; and over the years my “wondering” has turned into conviction. Yes, we do misunderstand it and these misunderstandings need to be corrected!
Let’s take the concept of idolatry. This is a major Old Testament theme. We are warned against it quite strongly. One major Old Testament story that speaks of this issue is when Moses goes up Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. He comes down the mountain after receiving the commandments and sees the Hebrews worshipping a Golden Calf. This act of yes, idolatry, enrages him. He throws down the tablet upon which the commandments were written and destroys the Golden Calf.
So why are idols so bad? Well, what’s an idol to begin with? An idol is whatever takes the place of God for us. The Hebrews had their God, the same one who took them out of Egypt. A Golden Calf did not take them out of Egypt. “I am who I am” took them out of Egypt. This is the answer God gave to Moses in the burning bush when Moses asks Him to identify Himself. Yet, despite the fact the Hebrews knew this, they still chose the Golden Calf – an idol instead. Moses knew his own duty in this case. He needed to remind them to place their awareness back to the real God.
Again and again, we are always reminded to keep our attention on the real God and not let any idol replace Him. So, what’s an idol for us? Or better expressed, what can be an idol for us? Anything that we are addicted to can be an idol. Any sinful habit. Our ego “can” be an idol for us. If we live selfishly with the sense that “it’s all about me,” we are over emphasizing our ego. And this is bad because in this sense we are ignoring the plight of our neighbor. We can even do this with our religion, at least in the sense as to what we think it means or says. For example, we may feel that all that matters is that I go to Heaven, not caring if anyone else does. Yet, what does Our Lady of Fatima say, and for that matter, the Apparitions of the Blessed Mother in general? Here we are invited to pray for all. People go to hell, Our Lady of Fatima says because they have nobody to pray for them.
We can become obsessed with worry about our problems and concerns. Instead of releasing them to God, we obsess about them, and as a result we don’t think of God anymore. We think of what makes us anxious. We may want constant distractions as a way of “coping” with life. The bottom line is that God should be our major focus. If we surrender here to God, we find that guidance is always ours. We find that Peace is restored to our soul. God bless you!
Peace, Fr. Walt