One of the Protestant Christians asked me “why do you Catholics worship idols? Is it not a sin against the First Commandment of God?” Perhaps, many of you might have been challenged with such questions by anyone of your protestant friends or your life partner, who is not a Catholic. Are Catholics, then, idol worshipers?
The first Commandment of God says: “I am the Lord your God … You shall have no others gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” ( Exodus 20:2-6).
The Book of Exodus in the Old Testament teaches strictly that images and statues are against the will of God and so they were forbidden. By having the statues in our Churches, it appears that we are doing that which has been forbidden by God. This has become a point of contention in the first century between Christians and Jews and between Christians and Muslims. Both the Jews and Muslims think that an image of God is blasphemous. Later from the 16th century the Protestant Churches also started accusing the Catholic Church as idol worshipers.
The Mystery of the Incarnation is the answer to any question challenging the Catholic Church: “And The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father… No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:14, 18).
It is right that idols were forbidden in the Old Testament, because God was invisible and the Israelites made idols out of their own imagination and worshipped them. Whereas when Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took flesh, was born of the Virgin Mary and lived among us. Thus, the invisible God became visible. All those who encountered Jesus during His life on earth, saw Him face to face. Subsequently, after His death and Resurrection, they retained the visible presence of Jesus in His image and the Cross on which He died, as the source of salvation. Therefore, the images in the Catholic Churches are not idols of imagination but images of God, who made Himself visible. Hence, having the image of Jesus and His Cross is not against the Commandment of God.
I shall share next week about why we have the statues of the Saints in the Catholic Churches.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V